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A SPIRITUAL PICNIC.
IN a volume bearing the title of Mystic London it would seem perchance that Spiritualism, as par excellence the modern mystery, should stand first. I have thought it better, however, to defer its treatment somewhat, working up to it as to a climax, and then gently descending to mundane matters once more ere I close my present work.
Of London at this hour, just as of Rome in the later Republic and Empire, it may be safely affirmed that there is in its midst an element of the mysterious and occult utterly undreamed of by the practical people. Many phases of this element have already been treated of in my different works ; and I add some of the more exceptional as properly belonging to my present subject. Now I candidly confess that, up to a recent date, I had not given Spiritualists - qua spiritualists - credit for being a cheerful or convivial people. Though there exist upon the tablets of my memory recollections of certain enjoyable dinners, cosy teas, and charming petits soupers, eaten at the mahogany of believers in the modern mystery, yet these were purely exceptional [-285-] events, oases in the desert of spiritualistic experiences. Generally speaking, the table, instead of groaning under its accumulated bounties, leapt about as if from the absence thereof; and the only adjuncts of the inhospitable mahogany were paper tubes for the spirit voices, handbells for the spirit hands, and occasional accordions and musical boxes for the delectation of harmonious ghosts. It was a "flow of soul" if not always a "feast of reason;" but, as regarded creature comforts, or any of the ordinary delights of mundane existence, a very Siberian desert. A grave subject of discussion (I am not, I assure you, indulging in a sepulchral pun) at the recent Liverpool Conference was how to feed mediums, and I fancy the preponderating opinion was that fasting was a cardinal virtue in their case - a regimen that had come to be in my mind, perhaps unfairly, associated with séances in general. I was glad, therefore, when I read in the columns of the Medium the announcement of the spiritual picnic or "demonstration," at the People's Garden, Willesden. Still I wanted to see Spiritualists enjoy themselves in the "normal condition." I sympathized with the avowed object of the gathering, that the followers of the new creed should know one another, as surely the disciples of a common school ought to do. Armed, therefore, with a ticket, I proceeded, via the North London Railway, to the scene of action. It was not what we materialistic people should call a fine August day. It was cold and dull, [-286-] and tried hard to rain ; but it was far more in keeping with the character of the meeting than what Father Newman calls the "garish day" one looks for in mid-August. In the words of the circle the " conditions were excellent ;" and as I journeyed on, reading my Medium like a true believer, I marvelled to see, by the evidence of its advertisements, how the new creed had taken hold of a certain section, at all events, of society. Besides a dozen public mediums who paraded their varied attractions at terms ranging from 2s. 6d. to 21s., there were spiritualistic young men who put forward their creed as a qualification for clerkships - perhaps they had no other claim - spiritual lodging-house keepers, and even spiritual undertakers, all pervaded by what we may literally call a common esprit de corps.
In due course we reached the People's Garden, the popular title whereof seemed to have been given on the lucus a non principle, for the London folk have not, as yet, affected it largely. Why this should be so one cannot guess, for it is the very ideal of a Cockney Paradise, and is admirably worked by a body of shareholders, most of whom belong to the artisan class, though under very distinguished patronage indeed. When I got to the grounds the Spiritualists were indulging in a merry-go-round during a refreshing drizzle. A temporary rush under cover ensued, and then the weather became more favourable, though the skies preserved their neutral tint. Mrs. Bullock, a [-287-] suburban medium, who had become entranced, had located herself in a bower, and beckoned people from the audience to receive her "benediction," which was given in a remarkable dialect. I thought it was Yorkshire, but a spiritualistic gentleman explained to me that it was "partly North American Indian." The Osborne Bellringers next gave a campanological concert, which was exceedingly good of its kind, the small gentleman who played the bass bell working so actively as to suggest the idea that he could not long survive such hard labour in his fleshly condition. These campanologists are said to be big mediums, and occasionally to be floated or otherwise spirited during their performances ; but nothing abnormal occurred at the People's Garden. Then there was dancing on the monster platform, which is, I should think, correctly described as "the largest in the world." This was indeed a new phase of Spiritualism : the terpsichorean spiritualists generally let their tables do the dancing for them, as Eastern potentates hire their dancing-girls. Donkey-races, croquet, and other unspiritual diversions varied the order of proceedings; and as for the one-and-ninepenny teas, I can only say I should think the Garden Committee did not get much profit out of them, for the Spiritualists regaled themselves in the most material fashion. During the afternoon the arrivals were fast and frequent. All the medium-power of London seemed present; and the only wonder was that we were not all floated [-288-] away. There was Mrs. Guppy, who, in answer to my demand whether she had been "floated" from Highbury, informed me that she had come far less romantically- "nine in a cab !" There was Dr. Monk, too, a Nonconformist clergyman, who had lately been taking aerial journeys of the Guppy order about Bristol. In fact, the élite of the sect were well represented; and during the whole afternoon, despite the dirty-looking day, the fun was fast and furious, and all went merry as the proverbial marriage-bell. Part of the programme was an entertainment by a gentleman bearing the delightfully sepulchral name of Dr. Sexton, whose mission in life it is to "expose" the tricks of Dr. Lynn and Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke. How those gentlemen are to be "exposed," seeing they only claim to deceive you by legerdemain, I cannot comprehend ; but they made the Spiritualists very angry by taking their names in vain on the handbills of the Egyptian Hall, and more than insinuating that there was a family likeness between their performances; and, consequently, the conjurors were to be "exposed ;" that is, the public were to have their visit to the Temple of Magic spoilt by being shown beforehand how the tricks were done. Aided by an expert assistant named Organ, Dr. Sexton soon let us into the mysteries of the cabinet business, which seemed just as easy as making the egg stand on end - when you know how. It is perfectly true that, after hearing Dr. Sexton's exposition - rather than [-289-] exposé - it is quite easy for any one to frustrate the designs of these clever conjurors, if he wishes to do so. I am not sure that the exposé is wise. Illogical people will not see the force of Dr. Sexton's argument, and will possibly think it "proves too much." If so much can be done by sleight of hand and ingenious machinery, they will argue, perhaps, that the Davenports and other mediums are only cleverer conjurors still, or have better machinery. Alas! all my fairyland is pasteboard now. I know how the man gets out of the corded box - I could do it myself. I know where the gorilla goes when he seems lost in the magic cabinet. It is all a clever combination of mirrors. The blood-red letters of some dear departed friend are only made with red ink and a quill pen, and the name of the "dear departed" forged. Well, I suppose I am illogical, too. If one set of things is so simple when it is shown to you, why may not all be? I fear the Willesden outing has unsettled my convictions, and shaken my faith in most sublunary things. The gathering clearly proved the growth of Spiritualism in London. That such numbers could be got together in the dead season bespeaks a very extensive ramification indeed.
A GHOSTLY CONFERENCE.
A DISTINCT and well-marked epoch is reached in the history of any particular set of opinions when its adherents begin to organize and confer, and the individual tenets become the doctrines of a party. Such a culmination has been attained by the believers in Modern Spiritualism. For a long while after the date of the now historical Rochester Rappings, the manifestations were mostly individual, and in a great degree limited to such exercises as Mr. Home's elongation, Mrs. Guppy's flight from Highbury to Lamb's Conduit Street, or, more recently still, the voices and manipulations of John and Katie King, the orations of Mrs. Hardinge, Mr. Morse, and Mrs. Tappan. But all this was spasmodic, and not likely to take the world by storm, while Spiritualists had adopted the time-honoured maxim-" Magna est veritas et prevalebit." Therefore they must organize. They have done so, not without protest on the part of some of the most noted of their adherents ; but the majority carried the day, and the result is the British National Association of Spiritualists, which has recently been [-291-] sitting in solemn conclave at its first Annual Conference in Lawson's Rooms, Gower Street.
Now I plead guilty to being greatly interested in this subject of Spiritualism generally, and in the doings of the Conference in particular. I cannot help thinking that clergymen and scientists ought to look into any set of opinions whose professors have attained the dimensions of this body. Their doctrines have spread and are spreading. Already the Spiritualists number among them such men as Mr. Alfred Wallace, Mr. Varley, Mr. Crookes, Mr. S. C. Hall, &c., and are extending their operations amongst all classes of society, notably among the higher. I could even name clergymen of all denominations who hold Spiritualistic views, but refrain, lest it should seem invidious, though I cannot see why it should be incongruous for the clergy to examine doctrines which profess to amplify rather than supplant those of revelation, any more than I can why scientists stand aloof from what professes to be a purely positive philosophy, based upon the inductive method. So it is, however; Spiritualism is heterodox at once in its religious and philosophical aspects. I suppose that is why it had such special attraction for me. Certain it is, I have been following the ghostly conference like a devotee.
We began on Monday evening with a musical soirée at the Beethoven Rooms, in Harley Street; and there was certainly nothing ghostly or sepulchral in our opening day; only then there was nothing very [-292-] spiritualistic either. For a long time I thought it was going to be all tea and muffins and pianoforte. By-and-by, however, Mr. Algernon Joy read a report of the organization, which was rather more interesting than reports generally are, and Mr. Benjamin Coleman, a venerable gentleman, the father of London Spiritualists, delivered a Presidential address. Still there were no ghosts-not even a spirit rap to augment the applause which followed the speakers. Once my hopes revived when two new physical mediums, with letters of recommendation from Chicago, were introduced, and I expected to see the young gentlemen elongate or float round the room ; but nothing of the kind occurred ; and a young lady dashed my hopes to the ground by singing "The Nightingale's Trill." Mr. Morse gave an address in the trance state - as I was afterwards informed; but he looked and spoke so like an ordinary mortal that I should not have found out that he way in an abnormal condition.
I fear I went home from Harley Street not quite in so harmonious a frame of mind as could have been wished.
The next morning (Wednesday) Dr. Gully presided at the opening of the Conference proper in Gower Street, where the rooms were more like vaults and smelt earthy. The President ably enough summarized the objections which had been raised to the [-293-] Association, and also the objects it proposed to itself. He said:-" If the Association keeps clear of dogmatic intrusion, then will there be no fear of its becoming sectarian. Already, however, there is a signal of dogmatism among Spiritualists - and already the dogmatizers call themselves by another name. But the Association has nothing to do with this. It knows its function to be the investigation of facts, and of facts only; and, as was said, no sect was ever yet framed on undoubted facts. Now what are the facts of Spiritualism up to this date ? They are reducible to two:-1st. The continued life and individuality of the spirit body of man after it has quitted its body of flesh; and, 2nd. Its communion with spirits still in the flesh, under certain conditions, by physical exhibition and mental impression. Spirit identity cannot be regarded yet as an established fact - at all events, not so as to warrant us in building upon it."
I was agreeably surprised with the moderate tone of this address ; and after a brief theological discussion, Mr. W. H. Harrison, the editor of the Spiritualist, followed with a paper on Organization. I do not know what Mr. Harrison was not for organizing. Libraries, reading-rooms, colleges, everything was to be spiritualized. Later in the day there was a paper on Physical Manifestations. I should have preferred the manifestations without the paper, for I fear I am [-294-] a poor believer at second hand. The reader told some "stumping" stories. Here is one as a specimen - spiritual in more senses than one :-
"One evening I accompanied the Davenports to Mr. Guppy's residence in Great Marlborough Street. After supper Ira, the eldest of the brothers, Mr. Guppy, and myself, adjourned to a dark room, which Mr. Guppy had had prepared for experimental purposes. To get to this room we had to pass through a room that served the combined purposes of a sculptor's studio and a billiard room. Emerging from this room we came into a yard, in one corner of which the dark cabinet in question was constructed. Taking our seats, we extinguished the light. Mr. Guppy was at the time smoking a cigar. This was at once taken from his hand, and carried in the air, where it could be seen by the light given out by its combustion. Some whisky and water was standing on the table. This was handed to us to drink. When it came to my turn, I found there was but little left in the glass. This I pointed out. The glass was forthwith taken from my mouth, and replenished and brought back again."
On Thursday Mr. Everitt read a paper on Direct Writing by Spirits, telling us that on one occasion nine hundred and thirty-six words were written in six seconds. Mr. Everitt must be a bold man - I don't mean altogether for asking us to believe that, but for saying what he did about the medium, who was his [-295-] wife :-"There are many considerations why it would be impossible for the medium to have produced these writings. For instance, we have sixteen papers upon the same subject, and in those papers there are a great many ancient authors referred to. Mrs. Everitt has never read or seen a single book of any of these authors, and, with a few exceptions, their names had never been heard by her before, much less did she know the age they lived in, the country they belonged to, the works they had written, or the arguments made use of for the defence of their doctrines and teachings. Besides the above reasons there are physical and mental difficulties which preclude the possibility of their being produced by the medium. The physical impossibility is the marvellous rapidity of their production, as many as 936 words having been written in six seconds. The mental difficulty is that the medium has not a logical mind. Like most females, she takes a short cut by jumping to conclusions. She does not, indeed cannot, argue out any proposition by the ordinary rules of logic. Now the papers referred to show that the author or authors are not only well acquainted with ancient lore and the classics, but also possessed very high ability as logicians. For the above reasons we conclude that the medium, from sheer incapacity, both mentally and physically, could not have written these papers, nor any other human being under the same circumstances. We are therefore absolutely driven, after [-296-] looking at the subject from every conceivable point of view, to conclude respecting their production that they came from a supernatural source, and were produced by supernatural means."
In the afternoon of this day a clergyman, whose name it would be highly indecorous in me to mention, descanted on the aspect of Spiritualism from his point of view in the Church of England. I understood the purport of the paper to be (1) that he claimed the right of members of the Church of England to investigate the phenomena ; (2) that, if convinced of their spiritual origin, such conviction need not shake the investigator's previous faith. If the clergyman in question really said no more than the printed reports of the Conference represent him to have done, he rather reversed the conduct of Balaam, and cursed those he came to bless. This is the curt résumé that went forth :-
"The Rev. ----- read a paper, in which he defined his position with regard to Spiritualism as that of a mere inquirer, adding that even if he became convinced of its truth, he saw no reason why he should alter the opinions he at present held as a clergyman of the Church of England. After eighteen months' inquiry into the subject, however, he was, perhaps, more of a sceptic than before." If that was all the clergyman in question had to say for the Association, they must rather regret they ever "organized" him, [-297-] but I heard it whispered - presumably by a spirit voice - that there had been a passage at arms between the lady secretary and the clergyman in question, and that Miss - but no, I must not mention names - the fair official punished the delinquent with that most awful penalty - silence.
Friday finished the Conference with a trance paper - I did not know there were such things - dictated to Mrs. Cora Tappan by invisible guides, and was read by Miss - I mean by the fair incognita above-mentioned. Not a manifestation - literally not the ghost of one - only this very glowing peroration :- "But it is in a larger sense of social, mental, political, and even religious renovation, that Spiritualism is destined to work its chief results. The abrogation of the primal terror of mankind, the most ancient spectre in the world of thought, grim and shadowy Death, is, in itself, so vital a change that it constitutes a revolution in the world of mind. Chemistry has already revealed the wonderful fact that no ultimate atom can perish. The subtle chemistry of Spiritualism steps in where science ceases, gathering up the ultimate atoms of thought into a spiritual entity and proving them imperishable. Already has this thought pervaded the popular mind, tinged the decaying forms of theology and external science with its glow, and made the life of man a heritage of immortal glory. More than this, taking spirit as the primal basis of life, each individual, and all members of society and hu-[-298-]manity in the aggregate, must for ever strive to express its highest life (i.e. the life of the spirit). The child will be taught from within, external methods being employed only as aids, but never as dictators of thought. Society will be the flowing out of spiritual truths, taking shape and substance as the expression of the soul. Governments will be the protecting power of a parent over loving children, instead of the dictates of force or tyranny. Religion will wear its native garb of simplicity and truth, the offspring of the love and faith that gave it birth. Modern Spiritualism is as great a solvent of creeds, dogmas, codes, scientific sophisms, as is the sunlight of the substances contained in earth and air, revealing by the stages of intermediate life, from man, through spirits, angels, archangels, seraphim, and cherubim, to God, the glorious destiny of every soul. There is a vine growing in the islands of the tropic seas that thrives best upon the ancient ruins or crumbling walls of some edifice built by man; yet ever as it thrives, the tiny tendrils penetrate between the fibres of the stone, cutting and cutting till the whole fabric disappears, leaving only the verdant mass of the foliage of the living vine. Spiritualism is to the future humanity what this vine is to the ancient ruin."
There was another paper coming on "Compound Consciousness," but the title did not attract me. After my four days' patient waiting for ghosts who never came and spirits that would not manifest, I [-299-] felt, perhaps, a little impatient, put on my hat and left abruptly - the fair secretary, of whom I shall evermore stand in supreme awe, scowling at me when I did so. As I passed into Gower Street-sweet, serene Gower Street, sacred from the wheels of profane cabmen, I was almost surprised to see the "materialized " forms around me ; and it really was not until I got well within sound - and smell - of the Underground Railway that I quite realized my abased position, or got out of the spheres whither the lofty periods of Mrs. Tappan's paper, so mellifluously delivered, had wafted me !
MR. SPURGEON a short time since oracularly placed it on record that, having hitherto deemed Spiritualism humbug, he now believes it to be the devil. This sudden conversion is, of course, final; and I proceed to narrate a somewhat exceptional endorsement of the opinion which has recently occurred within my own experience. There was a time, how long ago it boots not to say, when I considered Spiritualism humbug; and a good deal came in my way which might have led me to the same conclusion as Mr. Spurgeon, if I had been disposed - which I am not - to go with a hop, skip, and jump.
The investigator who first presented the "diabolical" theory to my notice was a French Roman Catholic priest, who had broken discipline so far as to enter the married state, but retained all the doctrines of his former faith intact. He had, in fact, anticipated to some extent the position of Pere Hyacinthe ; for it was several years ago I first became acquainted with him. Individually as well as nationally this gentleman, too, was prone to jump at conclusions. He lost a dear friend, and immediately proceeded to [-301-] communicate with the departed by means of table-turning and rapping. For a few days he was quite convinced of the identity of the communicating spirit ; but then, and all within the compass of a single week, he pronounced the exorcism of the Catholic Church on the intelligence, I suppose experimentally in the first instance; found his challenge not satisfactorily answered, and immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was the foul fiend himself. I sat very frequently with this gentleman afterwards, prior to the experience I am about to narrate; and certainly the intelligence always gave itself out to be the spirit unmentionable to ears polite, whose presence my friend had taken for granted.
I once went with this gentleman to the Marshalls, when they were at their zenith. We arranged previously that he should not sit at the table, but on one side, and give me a secret signal when he was silently pronouncing the exorcism. He did so; and certainly all manifestations at once ceased, though we had been in full converse with the invisibles a moment before. Old Mrs. M. had to announce with much chagrin, " The sperrits is gone !"
My other partner in diablerie was a barrister whom I must not mention by name, but who possessed considerable power as a writing medium. The presiding intelligence in his case was, however, of a low character, and given to very bad language. He avowed himself to have been a bargee in the earth [-302-] plane - should one say the water-plane? - and certainly swore like one.
As for myself, I am destitute of all "medium-power," whatever that may be, though enthusiastic spirituelle ladies tell me I am " mediumistic" - a qualification which is still more occult to me. I own to being greatly interested in spiritualistic inquiries, except as regards dark séances, which have a tendency to send me to sleep; and I believe that my presence does not "stop manifestations:" so that I suppose I am not a hopeless sceptic.
On the occasion of which I am about to speak we met in my study, where I am in the habit of rearing a few pet snakes. I had just got a fine new specimen; and having no proper habitation for it, had turned my waste-basket upside-down on a small chess table, and left him to tabernacle under it for the night. This was the table we generally used for séances ; and my legal friend, who was writing, immediately began to use most foul language, on the subject of the snake, exhorting me to "put him anywhere, put him in the cupboard, old boy." Such was the edifying style of communication we always got through this worthy limb of the law, but it was so much worse than usual on the present occasion as to fairly make us roar at its insane abuse. The gentleman himself, I ought to add, is by no means prone to profane swearing. My priestly friend was making a wide-awake hat reply by tilts; and still got his old reply [-303-] that his Satanic Majesty was personally present. I did not in the least credit this assertion, any more than I accepted as proven the identity of the bargee, though I hold the impersonation in either case to be a strange psychological fact. That I did not do so is best evidenced by the circumstance that I said, " This spirit asserts himself to be his Satanic Majesty. Have you either of yon any objection to communicate with him supposing such to be the case ?"
Neither one nor the other had the slightest. My Catholic friend, I knew, always carried a bottle of holy water in his pocket, and at my entreaty forbore for the moment to exorcise. The legal gentleman, though a "writer" himself, was not at all convinced about the phenomena, as was perhaps natural, seeing the exceedingly bad company to which it professed to relegate him. As for me, my scepticism was to me robur et aes triplex. I disposed of the snake, put out the gas; and down we three sat, amid profound darkness, like three male witches in " Macbeth," having previously locked the door to prevent any one disturbing our hocus-pocus.
Any one who has sat at an ordinary dark séance will recollect the number of false starts the table makes, the exclamations, " Was that a rap?" when the wood simply cracks, or, "Did you feel a cold air?" when somebody breathes a little more heavily than usual. I have myself made the experiment, though not without adding an open confession im[-304-]mediately afterwards. I have blown on the fingers of the sitters, and made them feel sure it was a "spirit aura," have done the neatest of raps with my index-finger when my little finger has been securely hooked in that of my next neighbour. In fact, for test purposes, dark séances are a mistake, though they are admirable for a flirtation.
On this occasion, however, we were very much in earnest, and there was no waiting - I hope no collusion. I am quite sure I did not myself consciously produce any manifestation. I can answer for my legal friend, as far as any one person can answer for another ; and we neither of us suspected - or suspect- the priest of the order of St. Benedict ; only we would rather he had not pronounced such decided opinions ; because the wish might have been father to the thought, or rather the thought might, in some utterly unaccountable way, have produced the effects that followed. I have an idea that if Mr. Spurgeon in his present frame of mind were to sit at a table for manifestations, he would obtain the clearest assurance that it was "all the devil," just as it is well known Roman Catholic sitters get communications from Roman Catholic spirits, theists from theistic, and Mormons from the denizens of some spiritualistic Utah.
We had not, on this occasion, a moment to wait. The table forthwith began to plunge and career about the room as though the bargee - or the other personage [-305-] himself - had actually been "in possession." It required all our agility to follow it in its rapid motion about the room. At last it became comparatively quiet ; and I received in reply to a question as to who was present the exceedingly objectionable name which Mr. Spurgeon has coupled with the whole subject. Some persons I know entertain a certain amount of respect, or at all events awe, for the intelligence in question. For myself I feel nothing of the kind, and therefore I added, "If you are what you profess to be, give us some proof." We were sitting with only the tips of our fingers on the table ; but it forthwith rose up quite perpendicularly, and came down with a crash that completely shivered it in pieces. I have not the slightest idea how it was done - but it certainly was done. A large portion of the table was reduced to a condition that fitted it for Messrs. Bryant and May's manufactory. When we lighted the gas and looked at our watches we found we had only been sitting a very few minutes.
Of course the obvious explanation will be that the gentleman with the diabolical theory and the evidently strong will-power (as evidenced in the denouement at Mrs. Marshall's) produced the diabolical effects consciously or unconsciously. I do not think the former was the case ; and if it is possible to get such results unconsciously, that phenomenon is quite as curious as the spiritualistic explanation. In fact I am not sure that the psychological is not more difficult than the [-306-] pneumatological theory. My own notion is that the "Psychic Force" people are clearly on the right track, though their cause, as at present elaborated, is not yet equal to cover all the effects.
Mr. Spurgeon and the "diabolists" concede the whole of the spiritualistic position. They not only say that the effects are due to spiritual causes, but they also identify the producing spirit. I have never been able to get as far as that. I did not feel on the occasion in question at all as though I had been in communication with his sable Majesty. If I was, certainly my respect for that potentate is not increased, for I should have fancied he would have done something much "bigger" in reply to my challenge than smash up a small chess-table. However, there was a sort of uncanny feeling about the experience, and it seemed to me so far illustrative of Mr. Spurgeon's position as to be worth committing to paper. If that gentleman, however, lends such a doctrine the sanction of his approval, he will, let him he assured, do more to confirm the claims, of Spiritualism than all the sneers of Professors Huxley and Tyndall, and the scorn of Mr. George Henry Lewes can undo.
I AM about for once to depart from my usual custom of narrating only personal experiences, and in this and the two following chapters print the communications of a friend who shares my interest in these matters, and has frequently accompanied me in my investigations into this .mysterious Borderland. In these cases, however, he investigated on his own account, and I am not responsible for the conclusions at which he arrives :-
"Attracted," he says, "by an article in a popular journal on the subject of 'Spirit Faces,' I determined, if possible, to 'assist' at a séance. I had not hitherto taken much interest in spiritualistic matters, because in the first place, the cui bono question remained persistently unanswered ; and, secondly, because most of the 'doings' were in the dark; and it appears to me that, given darkness, there are few things in the way of conjuring and ventriloquism that could not be done. Terpsichorean tables and talking hats never had any particular charm for me, because I could always make a table dance, or a hat say anything I wanted it to say. I saw the Davenports, and preferred Professor [-308-] Anderson. I even went to a dark séance at the Marshalls', and noticed that when Mr. and Mrs. Marshall had perceptibly partaken of beefsteak and onions, or some equally fragrant food, for dinner, the breath which accompanied the spirit-voices was unmistakably impregnated with onions too; and hence I drew my own conclusions. I am not saying I know how Mr. and Mrs. Marshall do John King and Katie King. I don't know how Professor Anderson or Professor Pepper do their tricks. I confess Mr. Home and the Marshalls have the pull of the professors in one way - that is, they don't perform on a platform but in a private room, and they let you examine everything beforehand. Theirs is the ars celare artem. Again, I don't know how men in the street get out of the wry curious knots in which I have tied them, but I know they do it ; and therefore I am sure the Davenports could do it without calling in the ghost of one's deceased grandmamma as a sort of Deus - or rather Dea - ex machina. I have never seen Mr. Home handle fire or elongate. I have seen him 'levitate,' or float, and I candidly confess I don't know how he does it, any more than I can solve Sir David Brewster's trick by which four young ladies can lift a heavy man on the points of their fingers. It's very mysterious, and very nice for the man.
"So it happened that I had shelved spiritualism for some time, when the article on 'Spirit Faces' came under my notice. I did not care so much about the [-309-] face part of the matter (at least not the spirit face), hut 1 wanted to test it as a matter of athletics. In one respect the physiognomy did interest me, for I read that the medium was pretty - mediums, according to my experience, being generally very much the reverse - and I found that report had certainly not misrepresented the young lady in this respect. Her name is now public property, so I need not veil it under the pseudonyms of Miss Blank, or Asterisk, or anything of that sort. Miss Florence Cook, then, is a trim little lady of sweet sixteen, and dwells beneath the parental roof in an eastern suburb of London. It is quite true she does not accept payment for séances, which I strove to impress upon her was very foolish indeed, for she works almost as hard as Lulu twice in the week. However, she, or rather her parents, take high ground in the matter, which of course is very praiseworthy on their parts, and convenient for their guests if they happen to he impecunious.
"Now, I do not purpose going through the details of the séance, which was considerably irksome, being protracted by endless psalm singing. What I want to do - with Miss Cook's permission - is to calculate the chances of her being sufficiently athletic to perform the tricks herself, without the aid of spirits. Does she not underrate her unaided powers in assigning a supernatural cause for the effects produced ?
"Well, then, this lithe little lady is arrayed in the ordinary garb of the nineteenth century with what [-310-] is technically termed a "pannier," and large open sleeves, each of which, I fear, she must have found considerably in the way, as also the sundry lockets and other nick-nacks suspended from her neck. However, there they were. We put her in a cupboard, which had a single Windsor chair in it, and laid a stoutish new cord on her lap. Then came singing, which may or may not have been intended to drown any noise in the cupboard; but, after some delay, she was found tied around the waist, neck, and two wrists, and the ends of the cord fastened to the back of the chair. These knots we sealed, and consigned her to the cupboard again. Shortly after there appeared at an aperture in the upper portion of the cupboard a face which looked utterly unspiritual and precisely like that of the medium, only with some white drapery thrown over the head. The aperture was just the height that would have allowed Miss Cook to stand on the chair and peep out. I do not say she did; I am only calculating the height. The face remained some minutes in a strong light; then descended. We opened the cupboard, and found the little lady tied as before with the seals unbroken. Spiritual, or material, it was clever.
"After a pause, the same process was gone through again; only this time stout tape was substituted for rope. The cord cut the girl's wrists; and tape was almost more satisfactory. Again she was bound, and we sealed the knots; and again a face appeared - this [-311-] time black, and not like the medium at all. I noticed that the drapery ran right round the face, and cut it off at a straight line on the lower part. This gave the idea of a mask. I am not saying it was a mask. I am only throwing out a hint that, if the 'spirits' wish to convince people they should let the neck be well seen. I am bound to say it bore a strong light for several minutes ; and some people say they saw eyelids. I did not. I do not say they were not there. I know how impossible it is to prove a negative, and only say I did not see them.
"What followed possessed no special interest for any but the professed spiritualist, as it was done without any tying ; Miss Cook arguing logically enough that, if the previous manifestations were clearly proved to have taken place by other agency than that of the medium herself, mere multiplication of proof was unnecessary. I had only gone to study the matter from an athletic point of view; and I certainly came away impressed with the idea that, if Miss Florence Cook first got into and then got out of those knots, she was even more nimble and lithesome than she looked, and ought to start an Amateur Ladies' Athletic Society forthwith. As to her making faces at us through the window, I did not care sufficiently about the matter to inquire whether she did or not, because, if she got out of the ropes, it. was easy enough to get on the chair and make faces.
" Of course the cui bono remains. The professors [-312-] make money by it; and Miss Cook can make at most, only a little mild and scarcely enviable notoriety. A satirical old friend of mine, when I told him the above facts, chuckled, and said, 'That's quite enough for a girl of sixteen; and anything that's do-able, a girl of those years will do.' It was no use talking to him of panniers and loose sleeves, and lockets. He was an old bachelor, and knew nothing about such things. At least, he had no business to, if he did.
"I cannot forbear adding a domestic episode, though it is perhaps scarcely relevant to the subject. Certain young imps in my house, hearing what I had seen, got up an exhibition of spirit faces for my benefit. They rigged up a kind of Punch-and-Judy erection, and the cleanest of them did the spirit face, with a white pocket-handkerchief over his head. He looked as stolid and unwinking as the genuine spirit physiognomy itself. The gas was lowered to a 'dim religious light,' and then a black coal-scuttle, with features chalked on it, deceived some of the circle into the idea that it was a nigger. But the one element which interested me was wanting; there was no rope-tying which could at all entitle the juvenile performance to be categorized under ' Spiritual Athletics.' "
"SPOTTING" SPIRIT MEDIUMS.
"AMONG the recent utterances of spiritualistic organs is one to the effect that 'manifestations' come in cycles - in 'great waves,' I believe was the actual expression ; and of the many fluctuations to which spiritualistic society has been exposed of late is a very prominent irruption of young lady mediums. The time seems to have gone by for portly matrons to be wafted aerially from the northern suburbs to the W.C. district, or elderly spinsters to exhibit spirit drawings which gave one the idea of a water-colour palette having been overturned, and the resulting 'mess' sat upon for the purposes of concealment. Even inspirational speakers have so far 'gone out' as to subside from aristocratic halls to decidedly second-rate institutions down back streets. In fact, the 'wave' that has come over the spirit world seems to resemble that which has also supervened upon the purely mundane arrangements bf Messrs. Spiers and Pond; and we anxious investigators can scarcely complain of the change which brings us face to face with fair young maidens in their teens to the exclusion of the matrons and spinsters aforesaid, or the male medium who was [-314-] once irreverently termed by a narrator a ' bull-necked young man.'
"The names of these interesting young denizens of two worlds are so well known that it is perhaps unnecessary caution or superfluous gallantry to conceal them ; but I will err, if error it be, on the safe side, and call No. 1 Miss C. and No. 2 Miss S., premising only that each is decidedly attractive, with the unquestioned advantage of having seen only some sixteen or seventeen summers apiece. Miss C. has been 'out' some time ; her familiar being 'Katie King;' while Miss S. has made her debut more recently, having for her attendant sprites one 'Florence Maple,' a young lady spirit who has given a wrong terrestrial address in Aberdeen, and Peter, a defunct market gardener, who sings through the young lady's organism in a clear baritone voice. It was to me personally a source of great satisfaction when I learnt that Miss C. had been taken in hand by a F.R.S. - whom I will call henceforth the Professor - and Miss S. by a Serjeant learned in the law. Now, if ever, I thought, we have a chance of hearing what science and evidential acumen have to say on the subject of 'Face Manifestations.' Each of these gentlemen: I ought to mention, had written voluminously on the subject of Spiritualism, and both seemed inclined to contest its claims in favour of some occult physical - or, as they named it, psychic - force. This would make their verdict the more valuable to outsiders, as [-315-] it was clear they had not approached the subject with a foregone conclusion in its favour. True, the Spiritualists claimed both the Professor and the Serjeant persistently as their own ; but Spiritualists have a way of thinking everybody 'converted' who simply sits still in a decorous manner, and keeps his eyes open without loudly proclaiming scepticism.
"Personally I had been, up to the date of present occurrences, accustomed to summarize my convictions on the subject by the conveniently elastic formula that there might be 'something in it.' I still think so ; but perhaps with a difference.
" For the former of the two exposés - if such they shall be deemed - I am compelled to rely on documentary evidence; but I have 'sat' so many times with Miss S., have been requested so often by the inspirational Peter to 'listen to the whip-poor-will, a-singin' on the tree,' have shaken the spirit hand, gazed on the spirit face, and even cut off portions of the spirit veil of the fair Florence, that I can follow the order of events just as though I had been present. I must confess the wonderful similarity existing between Miss S. and Florence had exercised me considerably, and perhaps prepared me to accept with calmness what followed. Why delay the result? Miss S. and her mamma were invited to the country house of the learned Serjeant. A 'cabinet' was ex-temporized in the bay of the window, over which the curtains were drawn and a shawl pinned. With a [-316-] confidence which is really charming to contemplate, no 'tests ' were asked of the medium, no 'conditions' imposed on the sitter. Miss S. was put in the cabinet with only a chair, and the expectant circle waited with patience. In due time the curtains were drawn aside, and the spirit-face appeared at the opening. It was still the facsimile of Miss S., with the eyes piously turned up and a ghostly head-dress covering the hair. One by one the assembled were summoned to look more closely. The initiated gazed and passed on, knowing they must not peep; but, alas, one lady who was not initiated, and therefore unaware of the tacitly imposed conditions, imitated the example of Mother Eve, drew aside the curtains and exposed the unspiritual form of Miss S. standing on the chair; the 'spirit-hands' at the same time struggling so convulsively to close the aperture that the head-gear fell off, and betrayed the somewhat voluminous chignon of Miss S. herself. Hereupon ensued a row, it being declared that the medium was killed, though eventually order was restored by the rather incongruous process of a gentleman present singing a comic song. The learned Serjeant still clings to the belief that Miss S. was in a condition of 'unconscious somnambulism.' I only hope, if ever I am arraigned before him in his judicial capacity, he will extend his benevolent credulity to me in an equal degree, and give me the benefit of the doubt.
"It may be in the recollection of those who follow [-317-] the fluctuations of the Spiritual 'wave' that some months ago a Dialectical gentleman seized rudely on the spirit form of Katie, which struggled violently with him, scratching his face and pulling out his whiskers, eventually making good its retreat into the cupboard, where Miss C. was presumably bound hand and foot. I must confess the fact of that escape rather prejudiced me in favour of Katie, though I would rather she had evaporated into thin air, and left the dialectical whiskers intact. Still it scored a point on Katie's side, and I eagerly availed myself of the opportunity to pay my devoirs at the shrine of Miss C. ; the more so as the Professor had asserted twice that be had seen and handled the form of the medium while looking on and conversing with that of the spirit at the same time. If I could retain my former faith in the Professor, of course this would be final and my conversion an accomplished fact.
"We sat no longer in the subterranean breakfast room of Miss C.'s parental abode; but moved up to the parlour floor, where two rooms communicated through folding doors, the front apartment being that in which me assembled, and the back used as a bedroom, where the ladies took off their 'things.' This latter room, be it remembered, had a second room communicating with the passage, and so with the universe of space in general. One leaf of the folding doors was closed, and a curtain hung over the other. Pillows were placed on the floor, just inside the cur-[-318-]tain, and the little medium, who was nattily arrayed in a blue dress, was laid upon them. We were requested to sing and talk during 'materialization,' and there was as much putting up and lowering of the light as in a modern sensation drama. The Professor acted all the time as Master of the Ceremonies, retaining his place at the aperture; and I fear, from the very first, exciting suspicion by his marked attentions, not to the medium, but to the ghost. When it did come it was arrayed according to orthodox ghost fashion, in loose white garments, and I must confess with no resemblance to Miss C. We were at the same time shown the recumbent form of the pillowed medium, and there certainly was something blue, which might have been Miss C., or only her gown going to the wash. By-and-by, however, with 'lights down,' a bottle of phosphorized oil was produced, and by this weird and uncanny radiance one or two-privileged individuals were led by the 'ghost' into the back bedroom, and allowed to put their hands on the entranced form of the medium. I was not of the 'elect,' but I talked to those who were, and their opinion was that the 'ghost' was a much stouter, bigger woman than the medium ; and I must confess that certain unhallowed ideas of the bedroom door and the adjacent kitchen. stairs connected themselves in my mind with recollections of a brawny servant girl who used to sit sentry over the cupboard in the breakfast room. Where was she ?
[-319-] "As a final bonne bouche the spirit made its exit from the side of the folding door covered by the curtain, and immediately Miss C.. rose up with dishevelled locks in a way that must have been satisfactory to anybody who knew nothing of the back door and the brawny servant, or who had never seen the late Mr. Charles Kean act in the 'Corsican Brothers' or the 'Courier of Lyons.'
"I am free to confess the final death-blow to my belief that there might be 'something in' the Face Manifestations was given by the effusive Professor who has 'gone in' for the Double with a pertinacity altogether opposed to the calm judicial examination of his brother learned in the law, and with prejudice scarcely becoming a F.R.S.
"I am quite aware that all this proves nothing. Miss S. and Miss C. may each justify Longfellow's adjuration-
"Trust her not, she is fooling thee;"
and yet ghosts be as genuine as guano. Only I fancy the 'wave' of young ladies will have to ebb for a little while; and I am exceedingly interested in speculating as to what will be the next 'cycle.' From ' information I have received,' emanating from Brighton, I am strongly of opinion that babies are looking up in the ghost market, and that our next manifestations may come through an infant phenomenon."
"ATTRACTED by the prominence recently given to the subject of Spiritualism in the Times, and undeterred by that journal's subsequent recantation, or the inevitable scorn of the Saturday Review, I determined to test for myself the value of the testimony so copiously quoted by believers in the modern marvel. Clearly if certain published letters of the period were to be put in evidence, Spiritualism had very much the better, and Science exceedingly little to say for itself. But we all know that this is a subject on which scientific men are apt to be reticent. ' Tacere tutum est' seems the Fabian policy adopted by those who find this new Hannibal suddenly come from across sea into their midst. It is moreover a subject about which the public will not be convinced by any amount of writing or talking, but simply by what it can see and handle for itself. It may be of service, then, if I put on record the result of an examination made below the surface of this matter.
Like most other miracles this particular one evidently has its phases and comes about in cycles. For a generation past, or nearly so, Modern Spiritualism [-321-] has been so far allied with Table-turning and mysterious rappings as to have appropriated to itself in consequence certain ludicrous titles, against which it vainly protests. Then cropped up 'levitations' and 'elongations' of the person, and Mr. Home delighted to put red-hot coals on the heads of his friends. None of these manifestations, however, were sufficient to make the spiritualistic theory any other than a huge petitio principii. The Davenports were the first to inaugurate on anything like an extended scale the alleged appearance of the human body, or rather of certain members of the human body, principally arms and hands, through the peep-hole of their cabinet. Then came 'spirit-voices' with Mrs. Marshall, and aerial transits on the part of Mrs. Guppy; then the entire 'form of the departed' was said to be visible chez Messrs. Herne and Williams in Lamb's Conduit Street, whose abode formed Mrs. Guppy's terminus on the occasion of her nocturnal voyage. Then came Miss Florence Cook's spirit faces at Hackney, which were produced under a strong light, which submitted to be touched and tested in what seemed a very complete manner, and even held conversations with persons in the circle. Finally, I heard it whispered that these faces were being recognised on a somewhat extensive scale at the séances of Mrs. Holmes, in Old Quebec Street, where certain other marvels were also to be witnessed, which decided me on paying that lady a visit.
[-322-] " Even these, however, were not the principal attractions which drew me to the tripod of the seeress in Quebec Street. It had been continually urged as an argument against the claims of Modern Spiritualism, first, that it shunned the light and clave to 'dark' circles; secondly, that it was over-sensitive on the subject of 'sceptics.' Surely, we are all sceptics in the sense of investigators. The most pretentious disciple of Spiritualism does not claim to have exhausted the subject. On the contrary, they all tell us we are now only learning the alphabet of the craft. Perhaps the recognised Spirit-faces may have landed us in words of one syllable, but scarcely more. However, the great advantage which Mrs. Holmes possessed in my eyes over all professors of the new art was that she did not object to sceptics. Accordingly to Quebec Street I went, for the distinct purpose of testing the question of recognition. If I myself, or any person on whose testimony I could rely, established a single case of undoubted recognition, that, I felt, would go farther than anything else towards solving the spiritualistic problem.
"I devoted two Monday evenings to this business; that being the day on which Mrs. Holmes, as she phrases it, 'sits for faces.' On the former of the two occasions twenty-seven persons assembled, and the first portion of the evening was devoted to the Dark Séance, which presented some novel features in itself, but was not the special object for which I [-323-] was present. Mrs. Holmes, who is a self-possessed American lady, evidently equal to tackling any number of sceptics, was securely tied in a chair. All the circle joined hands ; and certainly, as soon as the light was out, fiddles, guitars, tambourines and bells did fly about the room in a very unaccountable manner, and when the candle was lighted, I found a fiddle-bow down my back, a guitar on my lap, and a tambourine ring round my neck. But there was nothing spiritual in this, and the voice which addressed us familiarly during the operation may or may not have been a spirit voice.
" Mrs. Holmes having been released from some very perplexing knots, avowedly by Spirit power, proceeded to what is called the 'Ring Test,' and I was honoured by being selected to make the experiment. I sat in the centre of the room and held both her hands firmly in mine. I passed my hands over her arms, without relaxing my grasp, so as to feel that she had nothing secreted there; when suddenly a tambourine ring, jinglers and all, was passed on to my arm. Very remarkable; but still not necessarily spiritual. Certain clairvoyants present said they could witness the 'disintegration' of the ring. I only felt it pass on to my arm. On the occasion of my second visit this same feat was performed on an elderly gentleman, a very confirmed sceptic indeed. This second circle consisted of twenty persons, many of them very pronounced disbelievers, and not a [-323-] little inclined to be 'chaffy.' However all went on swimmingly.
"After about an hour of rather riotous dark séance, lights were rekindled and circles re-arranged for the Face Séance which takes place in subdued light. In the space occupied by the folding doors between the front and back room a large black screen is placed, with an aperture, or peep-hole, about eighteen inches square, cut in it. The most minute examination of this back room is allowed, and I took care to lock both doors, leaving the keys crosswise in the key-hole, so that they could not be opened from the outside. We then took our seats in the front room in three or four lines. I myself occupied the centre of the first row, about four feet from the screen, Mr. and Mrs. Holmes sitting at a small table in front of the screen; the theory being that the spirits behind collect from their 'emanations' material to form the faces. Soon after we were in position a most ghostly-looking child's face appeared at the aperture, but was not recognised. Several other corpse-like visages followed with like absence of recognition. Then came a very old lady's face, quite life-like, and Mrs. Holmes informed us that the cadaverous people were those only recently deceased. The old lady looked anxiously round as if expecting to be recognised, but nobody claimed acquaintance. In fact no face was recognised at my first visit. The next was a jovial Joe Bagstock kind of face which peered quite [-325-] merrily round our circle, and lastly came a most lifelike countenance of an elderly man. This face, which had a strange leaden look about the eyes, came so close to the orifice that it actually lifted its grey beard outside. On the occasion of my second visit a lady present distinctly recognised this as the face of her husband, and asked the form to show its hand as an additional mark of identity. This request was complied with, the figure lifting a thin, white and - as the widow expressed it - 'aristocratic' hand, and kissing it most politely. I am bound to say there was less emotion manifested on the part of the lady than I should have expected under the circumstances ; and a young man who accompanied her, and who from the likeness to her must have been her son, surveyed his resuscitated papa calmly through a double-barrelled opera glass. I am not sure that I am at liberty to give this lady's name ; but, at this second visit, Mrs. Gregory of 21, Green Street, Grosvenor Square, positively identified the old lady abovementioned as a Scotch lady of title well known to her.
" I myself was promised that a relation of my own would appear on a future occasion; but on neither of those when I attended did I see anything that would enable me to test the value of the identifications. The faces, however, were so perfectly life-like, with the solitary exception of a dull leaden expression in the eye, that I cannot imagine the possibility of a doubt [-326-] existing as to whether they belonged to persons one knew or not. At all events here is the opportunity of making the test. No amount of scepticism is a bar to being present. The appearances are not limited to a privileged few. All see alike: so that the matter is removed out of the sphere of 'hallucinations.' Everything is done in the light, too, as far as the faces are concerned. So that several not unreasonable test-conditions are fulfilled in this case, and so far a step made in advance of previous manifestations.
"We may well indeed pause - at least I know I did - to shake ourselves, and ask whereabouts we are. Is this a gigantic imposture? or are the Witch of Endor and the Cumaean Sibyl revived in the unromantic neighbourhood of the Marble Arch, and under circumstances that altogether remove them from the category of the miraculous? England will take a good deal of convincing on this subject, which is evidently one that no amount of 'involuntary muscular action,' or 'unconscious cerebration,' will cover. What if the good old-fashioned ghost be a reality after all, and Cock Lane no region of the supernatural?
" What then? Why, one may expect to meet one's deceased ancestors at any hour of the day or night, provided only there be a screen for them to 'form' behind, and a light sufficiently subdued to prevent disintegration ; with, of course, the necessary pigeon-[-327-]hole for the display of their venerable physiognomies. On their side of the question, it will be idle to say, 'No rest but the grave!' for there may not be rest even there, if Delphic priestesses and Cumaean Sibyls come into vogue again; and we may as well omit the letters R. I. P. from our obituary notices as a purely superfluous form of speech."
* * * * * *
Speaking now in my own proper person as author, I may mention - as I have purposely deferred doing up to this point - that a light was subsequently struck at one of Mrs. Holmes's Dark Séances, and that the discoveries thus made rendered the séance a final one. Mr. and Mrs. Holmes retired, first to Brighton, and then to America.
They were, at the time of my writing, holding successful séances in the latter place; and public (Spiritualistic) opinion still clings to the belief that Mrs. Holmes is a genuine medium.
AN EVENING WITH THE HIGHER SPIRITS.
AT the head of social heresies, and rapidly beginning to take rank as a religious heresy as well, I have no hesitation in placing modern Spiritualism. Those who associate this latest mystery only with gyrating articles of furniture, rapping tables, or simpering planchettes, are simply in the abyss of ignorance, and dangerously underrate the gravity of the subject. The later development of Spirit Faces and Spirit Forms, each of which I have examined thoroughly, and made the results of my observations public, fail to afford any adequate idea of the pitch to which the mania - if mania, it be - has attained. To many persons Spiritualism forms the ultimatum, not only in science, but also in religion. Whatever the Spirits tell them they believe and do as devoutly as the Protestant obeys his Bible, the Catholic his Church, or the scientific man follows up the results of his demonstrations. That is, in fact, the position they assume. They claim to have attained in matters of religion to demonstration as clear and infallible as the philosopher does in pure science. They say no longer "We believe," but "We know." These people [-329-] care little for the vagaries of Dark Circles, or even the doings of young ladies with "doubles." The flight of Mrs. Guppy through the air, the elongation of Mr. Home's braces, the insertion of live coals among the intricacies of Mr. S. C. Hall's exuberant locks, are but the A B C which have led them to their present advanced position. These physical "manifestations" may do for the neophytes. They are the initiated. I am the initiated ; or I ought to be, if patience and perseverance constitute serving an apprenticeship. I have devoted a good portion of my late life to the study. I have given up valuable evenings through several consecutive winters to dark séances ; have had my hair pulled, my head thumped with paper tubes, and suffered other indignities at the hands of the "Invisibles ;" and, worse than all, my friends have looked upon me as a lunatic for my pains, and if my enemies could have wrought their will they would have incarcerated me as non compos, or made an auto-da-fe of me as a heretic years ago.
Through sheer length of service, then. if on no other account, I had grown somewhat blasé with the ordinary run of manifestations. Spirit Faces no longer interest me; for I seek among them in vain the lineaments of my departed friends. Spirit Hands I shake as unconcernedly as I do those of my familiar acquaintances at the club or in the street. I have even cut off a portion of the veil of Miss Florence Maple, the Aberdeen Spirit, and gone away with it in [-330-] my pocket: so that it was, at all events, a new sensation when I received an invitation to be present at a trance dance, where one of the Higher Spirits communicated to the assembled things undreamed of in mundane philosophy. The sitting was a strictly private one; so I must not mention names or localities; but this does not matter, as I have no marvels in the vulgar sense of the word to relate: only Higher Teachings, which will do just as well with asterisks or initials as with the names in full.
The scene, then, was an artist's studio at the West End of London, and the medium a magnetic lady with whom I had frequently sat before, though not for the "Higher" teachings. Her instruction had so far come in the shape of very vigorous raps, which ruined my knuckles to imitate them, and in levitation of a small and volatile chess table, which resisted all my efforts to keep it to the paths of propriety. This lady was not young; and I confess frankly this was, to my thinking, an advantage. When I once told a sceptical friend about Miss Florence Cook's dance, and added, triumphantly, "Why, she's a pretty little simple girl of sixteen," that clenched the doubts of this Thomas at once, for he rejoined, " What is there that a pretty little simple girl of sixteen won't do?" Miss Showers is sweet sixteen, too; and when "Peter" sings through her in a clear baritone voice, I cannot, despite myself, help the thought occasionally flitting across my mind, " Would that you were six-[-331-]and-twenty, or, better still, six.and-thirty, instead of sixteen ! " Without specifying to which of the two latter classes our present medium belonged, one might venture to say she had safely passed the former. She was of that ripe and Rubens-like beauty to which we could well imagine some "Higher" spirit offering the golden apple of its approval, however the skittish Paris of the spheres might incline to sweet sixteen. I had a short time before sat infructuously with this lady, when a distressing contretemps occurred. We were going in for a dark séance then, and just as we fancied the revenants were about to justify the title, we were startled by a crash, and on my lighting up, all of the medium I could see were two ankles protruding from beneath the table. She had fainted "right off," as the ladies say, and it required something strong to bring her to. In fact, we all had a "refresher," I recollect, for sitting is generally found to be exhausting to the circle as well as to the medium. On the present occasion, however, everything was, if not en plein jour, en plein gaz. There was a good deal of preliminary difficulty as to the choice of a chair for the medium. Our artist-friend had a lot of antique chairs in his studio, no two being alike, and I was glad to see the lady select a capacious one with arms to it, from which she would not be likely to topple off when the spirits took possession. The rest of us sat in a sort of irregular circle round the room, myself alone being accom-[-332-]modated with a small table, not for the purposes of turning (I am set down as "too physical") but in order to report the utterances of the Higher Spirits. We were five "assistants" in all - our host, a young lady residing with him, another lady well known as a musical artiste, with her mamma and my unworthy self. Installed in her comfortable chair, the medium went through a series of facial contortions, most of which looked the reverse of pleasing, though occasionally she smiled benignantly par parenthese. I was told - or I understood it so - that this represented her upward passage through different spheres. She was performing, in fact, a sort of spiritualistic "Excelsior." By way of assimilating our minds to the matter in hand, we discussed the Apocryphal Gospels, which happened to be lying on the table; and very soon, without any other process than the facial contortions having been gone through, the medium broke silence, and, in measured tones of considerable benignity, said:- "Friends, we greet you in the name of our Lord and Master. Let us say the Lord's Prayer."
She then repeated the Lord's Prayer, with considerable alterations from the Authorized Version, especially, I noticed, inserting the Swedenborgian expressions, "the Heavens," "on earth;" but also altering the order of the clauses, and omitting one altogether. She then informed us that she was ready to answer questions on any subject, but that we were not bound [-333-] to accept any teaching which she - or let us say they, for it was the spirits now speaking - might give us. "What did we wish to know?" I always notice that when this question is asked at a spirit circle everybody simultaneously shuts up, as though the desire for knowledge were dried at its source. Nobody spoke, and I myself was not prepared with a subject, but I had just been reviewing a Swedenborgian book, and I softly insinuated "Spiritual Marriage." It was graciously accepted; and our Sibyl thus delivered herself :- Mankind, the higher Spirit or Spirits, said was originally created in pairs, and the soul was still dual. Somehow or other - my notes are not quite clear how - the parts had got mixed up, separated, or wrongly sorted. There were, however, some advantages in this wrong sorting, which was so frequent an accident of terrestrial marriage, since it was possible for people to be too much alike - an observation I fancied I had heard before, or at least not so profound a one as to need a ghost "Come from the dead to tell us that, Horatio!" When the right halves did get together on earth the good developed for good, the evil for evil, until they got to the heavens or the other places - they were all plurals. Swedenborgianism has an objection to the singular number; and I could not fail to identify the teaching of the Higher Spirit at once with that of the New Jerusalem Church. Two preliminary facts were brought before us ; the Higher Spirits were in theo-[-334-]logy Swedenborgian, and in medical practice homoeopaths. So was the Medium. Although there was no marriage in the spiritual world, in our sense of the term, there was not only this re-sorting and junction of the disunited bivalves, but there were actual "nuptials" celebrated. We were to be careful and understand that what terrestrials called marriage celestials named nuptials - it seemed to me rather a distinction without a difference. There was no need of any ceremony, but still a ceremony was pleasing and also significant. I asked if it was true, as I had read in the Swedenborgian book, that all adult angels were married. She replied, " Yes ; they married from the age of 15 to 24, and the male was always a few years older than the female."
There was a tendency, which I continually had to check, on the part of the Medium to wander off from matrimonial to theological subjects; and the latter, though trite, were scarcely so heterodox as I expected. I had found most "spiritualistic" teaching to be purely Theistic. Love to God and man were declared to be the great essentials, and creeds to matter little. If a man loved truth, it was no matter how wild or absurd his ideas might be. The love of God might seem a merely abstract idea, but it was not so. To love goodness was to love God. The love of the neighbour, in the sense of loving all one's kind, might seem hard, too; but it was not really so. There [-335-] were in the sphere where this Intelligence dwelt millions of angels, or good spirits, working for the salvation of men.
I ought to mention that this lady, in her normal condition, is singularly reticent, and that the "communications" I chronicle were delivered fluently in one unbroken chain of what often rose into real eloquence.
So Christ came for the good of man, and Christ was not the only Messiah who had appeared on earth. In the millions of ages that had passed over our globe, and in the other planets of our solar system, there had risen up "other men filled with the spirit of good, and so Sons of God." I here tried to get at the views of the Higher Spirits on the Divinity of Christ, but found considerable haziness ; at one time it was roundly asserted, at another it seemed to me explained away by such expressions as I have quoted above.
Our planet, I was informed, had been made the subject of special care because we were more material, more "solid" than the inhabitants of any other orb. There was an essential difference between Christ and all other great teachers, such as Buddha; and there were no historical records of any other manifestation of the Messiah than that we possessed; but such manifestations had taken place.
The Spirit then gave us an account of its surroundings, which is, I believe, purely Swedenborgian. The [-336-] "celestial" angels were devoted to truth, the "spiritual" angels to goodness; and so, too, there were the Homes of the Satans, where falsehoods prevailed, and of the Devils, where evils predominated. Spirits from each of these came to man and held him in equilibria; but gained power as his will inclined towards them. The will was not altogether free, because affected by inherited tendencies ; but the "determination" was. I have no idea what the Higher Spirit meant by this ; and I rather fancy the Higher Spirit was in some doubt itself. It rather put me in mind of the definition of metaphysics : " If you are talking to me of what you know nothing about, and I don't understand a word of what you are saying - that's metaphysics."
All can do good, continued the Sibyl. Evil cannot compel yon. Utter only such an aspiration as, "God help me," and it brings a crowd of angels round you. From those who came to them from this world, however, they (the Higher Spirits) found that teachers taught more about what we were to think than what we were to do. Goodness was so easy. A right belief made us happier; but right action was essential.
Pushed by our host, who was rather inclined to "badger" the Higher Spirit, as to irresistible tendencies, the Intelligence said they were not irresistible. When we arrived in the Spirit World we should find everything that had occurred in our lives photographed. You will condemn yourselves, it was added. [-337-] You will not be "had up" before an angry God. You will decide, in reference to any wrong action, whether you could help it. Even in the act of doing it a man condemns himself; much more so there. The doctrine of the Atonement was summarily disposed of as a "damnable heresy." " Does the Great Spirit want one man to die? It hurts us even to think of it !"
I then questioned the Medium with regard to the resurrection of the body ; and was told that man, as originally created, was a spiritual being, but had "superinduced " his present body of flesh - how he managed it I did not quite gather. As to possible sublimation of corporeal integument, the case of ghosts was mentioned. It was to no purpose I gently insinuated I had never seen a ghost, or had the existence of one properly authenticated. I was told that if I fired a pistol through a ghost only a small particle of dust would remain which could be swept up. I was not aware that even so much would remain. Fancy "sweeping up" a Higher Spirit !
I could not help once or twice pausing to look round on this strange preacher and congregation. The comfortable-looking lady propped in an armchair, and with an urbane smile discoursing on these tremendous topics, our little congregation of five, myself writing away for dear life, the young hostess nursing a weird-looking black cat; the other young lady continually harking back to "conjugal" sub-[-338-]jects, which seemed to interest her; the mamma slightly flabbergastered at the rather revolutionary nature of the communications; and our host every now and then throwing in a rude or caustic remark. I dreaded to think what might have been the result of a domiciliary visit paid by a Commissioner in Lunacy to that particular studio !
Back, then, the musical young lady took us to conjugal pairs. It was very difficult to convey to us what this conjugal love was like. Was it Elective Affinity? I asked. Yes; something like that, but still not that. It was the spontaneous gravitation in the spheres, either to other, of the halves of the dual spirit dissociated on earth. Not at all - again in reply to me - like flirting in a corner. The two, when walking in the spheres, looked like one. This conjugal puzzle was too much for us. We "gave it up;" and with an eloquent peroration on the Dynamics of Prayer, the séance concluded.
The Lord's Prayer was again said, with even more varieties than before ; a few extemporaneous supplications were added. The process of coming-to seemed even more disagreeable, if one may judge by facial expression, than going into the trance. Eventually, to get back quite to earth, our Sibyl had to be demesmerized by our host, and in a few minutes was partaking of a ham sandwich and a cup of coffee as though she had never been in nubibus at all.
What the psychological condition had been I leave [-339-] for those more learned than myself to determine. That some exaltation of the faculties took place was clear. That the resulting intelligence was of deep practical import few, I fancy, would aver. Happily my mission is not to discuss, but to describe ; and so I simply set down my experience in the same terms in which it was conveyed to me as "An Evening with the Higher Spirits."
SOME years ago I contributed to the columns of a daily paper an article on Spirit Faces, which was to me the source of troubles manifold. In the first place, the inquirers into Spiritualism, whose name I found to be legion, inundated me with letters, asking me to take them to the house of pretty Miss Blank, the medium. Miss Blank might have been going on till now, holding nightly receptions, without having exhausted her list of self-invited guests ; I had but one answer; the lady was a comparative stranger to me, and not a professional medium ; ergo, the legion must ask some one to chaperone them elsewhere. Spirit Faces had got comparatively common and almost gone out since I wrote. We are a long way beyond faces now. Then, again, my second source of trouble was that forthwith, from the date of my writing, the Spiritualists claimed me for their own, as Melancholy did the young gentleman in Gray's elegy. Though I fancied my paper was only a calm judicial statement of things seen, and I carefully avoided saying whether I was convinced or not, I found myself nolens volens enrolled among the initiated, and expected to devote [-341-] about five evenings out of the seven to séances. I did go, and do go still to a great many ; so that I feel pretty well posted up in the "Latest Intelligence" of the Spiritual world. But the worst of all is that my own familiar friends, in whom I trusted, have also lifted up their heels against me - I mean metaphorically, of course. "What's the last new thing in spirits?" they ask me out loud in omnibuses or railway carriages, causing my fellow-travellers to look at me in doubt as to whether I am a licensed victualler or a necromancer. As "bigots feign belief till they believe," I really begin to have some doubts myself as to the state of my convictions.
But I wish to make this paper again a simple statement of things heard and seen - especially seen. I flatter myself the title is a nice, weird, ghostly one, calculated to make people feel uncomfortable about the small hours of the morning. Should such he the case - as they say in prefaces - the utmost hopes of the writer will be realized. When last I communicated my experiences, the ultimate end we had reached was the appearance of a white counterpart of pretty Miss Blank's face at the peephole of a corner cupboard. There were a good many more or less generally less-successful imitations of this performance in various quarters, and the sensation subsided. Miss B. was still facile princeps from the fact that she stood full light - I mean her spirit-face did - whilst all the others leaned to a more or less dim [-342-] religious kind of gloom. In a short time, however, " Katie" - as the familiar of Miss B. was termed - thought she would be able to "materialize" herself so far as to present the whole form, if we re-arranged the corner cupboard so as to admit of her doing so. Accordingly we opened the door, and from it suspended a rug or two opening in the centre, after the fashion of a Bedouin Arab's tent, formed a semicircle, sat and sang Longfellow's "Footsteps of Angels ." Therein occurs the passage : "Then the forms of the departed enter at the open door." And, lo and behold, though we had left Miss B. tied and sealed to her chair, and clad in an ordinary black dress somewhat voluminous as to the skirts, a tall female figure draped classically in white, with bare arms and feet, did enter at the open door, or rather down the centre from between the two rugs, and stood statue-like before us, spoke a few words, and retired; after which we entered the Bedouin tent and found pretty Miss B. with her dress as before, knots and seals secure, and her boots on! This was Form No. 1, the first I had ever seen. It looked as material as myself; and on a subsequent occasion - for I have seen it several times - we took four very good photographic portraits of it by magnesium light. The difficulty I still felt, with the form as with the faces, was that it seemed so thoroughly material and flesh-and-blood like. Perhaps, I thought, the authoress of "The Gates Ajar" is right, and the next condition of things may be more material [-343-] than we generally think, even to the extent of admitting, as she says, pianofortes among its adjuncts. But I was to see something much more ghostly than this.
The great fact I notice about Spiritualism is, that it is obeying the occult impetus of all great movements, and steadily going from east to west. From Hackney and Highbury it gravitates towards Belgravia and Tyburnia. I left the wilds of Hackney behind, and neared Hyde Park for my next Form. I must again conceal names and localities; I have no desire to advertise mediums, or right to betray persons who have shown me hospitality - and Spirit Forms. We arranged ourselves in a semicircle around the curtains which separated the small back drawing-room from the large front one, joined hands, sang until we were hoarse as crows, and kept our eyes steadily fixed on an aperture left between the curtains for the faces to show themselves. The room was in blank darkness, and, feeling rather tired of the incantation, I looked over my shoulder into the gloom, and lo! a shadowy form stood self-illuminated not far from me. At last I had seen it - a good orthodox ghost in white, and visible in the darkness. It was the form of the redoubtable John King himself, who was, I believe, a bold buccaneer in the flesh, but who looked more like an Arab sheikh in the spirit. He sailed about the room, talked to us, and finally disappeared. Eventually he reappeared behind the curtains, and for a brief space the portiere was drawn aside, and the spirit [-344-] form was seen lighting up the recumbent figure of the medium, who was stretched on a sofa, apparently in deep trance. It must be borne in mind that we were forming a cordon round the passage from one room to the other during the whole of this time. A trio of "spirits" generally puts in an appearance at these séances. In this case there were John King, whom I had now seen, as well as heard; Katie, the familiar of Miss B. ; and a peculiarly lugubrious gentleman named Peter, who, I fancy, has not been seen, but who has several times done me the favour of grasping my hand and hoisting me towards the ceiling, as though he were going to carry me off bodily to spirit-land. I stand some six feet in my boots, and have stepped upon my chair, and still felt the hand coming downwards to me - where from I have no idea.
But my later experiences have still to be told. I was invited a few weeks ago to a very select séance indeed, where the same medium was to officiate. This family, who spared no expense in their investigations, had actually got a large, handsome cabinet standing in their dining-room as a recognised piece of furniture. It was only used, however, on this occasion for the imprisonment of the medium. The evolutions of John King, who soon appeared, all took place outside the cabinet door. He was only "materialized" to the middle ; and, to our utter amazement, came up to the table, and apparently through the table, into the very middle of the circle, where he disported himself in [-345-] various ways, keeping up an animated conversation the whole time, and frequently throwing himself into the attitude of a person swimming on his back. He also went upwards as high as the gasalier, and altogether did a good many marvellous things, considering that all this time he presented the appearance of only half a man illuminated by his own light.
On one occasion only have I been seated next to the medium during the manifestation of any of these forms. At this séance I held him firmly by one hand, and a lightly sceptical lady had the other. We never let go for a moment, but during the whole of the sitting, while John King, Katie, and Peter were talking, tiny children's hands were playing with my arm, hands, and hair. There were, of course, no children in the room. Peter, the lugubrious, is great at light porterage. I have known him bring a large collection of valuable Sevres china, and a timepiece with its glass case, from the chimney-piece to the table - no easy task in the light, much less in blank darkness. He also frequently takes down the pictures from the wall and puts them on the table. Katie winds up a large musical box, and wafts it, while playing, all over the room. Of course we rub our eyes and ask what on earth, if it be on earth, does this mean ? I have not - to keep up the diction of my subject - the ghost of an idea. If it's conjuring, why don't the mediums say so, and enter the field openly against Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke [-346-] and Dr. Lynn? Even if I had a decided opinion about it I should refrain from propounding it here, because, in the first place, it would be an impertinence, and, in the second, no conclusion can be arrived at upon testimony alone. People must see for themselves and draw their own inferences. In the meantime the thing, whatever it is, grows and grows upwards. A year ago I had to journey down east to find it. Now I must array myself gorgeously like a Staffordshire miner, and seek the salons of the West. The great desideratum, it still appears to me, is that some man with a name in science should examine the matter, honestly resolving to endorse the facts if true, but to expose them mercilessly if there be a loophole for suspicion. Omne ignotum pro magnifico habetur. I used to think ghosts big things, but that was before I knew them. I should think no more of meeting a ghost now than a donkey on a dark night, and would infinitely sooner tackle a spirit than a burglar. People's curiosity is roused, and the sooner somebody gets at the truth the better. It is a somewhat irksome task, it is true ; but no general principle can be arrived at except by an induction of particulars. Let us be Baconian, even to our ghosts. If they are ghosts, they are a good deal more substantial than I had thought. If they are not, let somebody, in the name of nineteenth-century science, send them off as with the crow of chanticleer, and let us hear no more of Spirit Faces or Spirit Forms.
SITTING WITH A SIBYL.
THE connexion of modesty with merit is proverbial, though questioned by Sydney Smith, who says their only point in common is the fact that each begins with an - m. Modesty, however - waiving the question of accompanying merit - is a trait which, in my mystic inquiries and devious wanderings, I meet with far more frequently than might be expected. I have just met with two instances which I hasten to put on record, if only to confute those who say that the age in general, and spirit mediums in particular, are not prone to be modest and retiring. My first modest person was a Spirit Photographer ; my second was a Sibyl. I might have looked for bashfulness in the latter, but was certainly surprised. to meet with it in the former. I suddenly learnt from the Medium the fact that a Spirit Photographer had settled down in my immediate neighbourhood, and the appearance of his ghostly advertisement brings to my recollection some previous mystic experiences I myself had in this way.
A now celebrated medium, Mrs. Guppy, née Miss Nicholl, was, in the days of her maidenhood, a prac-[-348-]titioner of photography in Westbourne Grove ; and, as far as I know, she might have been the means of opening up to the denizens of the Summer Land this new method of terrestrial operations. Ever on the qui vive for anything new in the occult line, I at once interviewed Miss Nicholl and sat for my portrait, expecting at the least to find the attendant spirit of my departed grandmamma or defunct maiden aunt standing sentinel over me, as I saw departed relations doing in many cartes de visite in the room. I confess there was a kind of made-up theatrical-property look about the attendant spirits which gave one the idea that the superior intelligences must have dressed in a hurry when they sat or stood for their portraits. They looked, in fact, if it be not irreverent to say it, rather like so many bundles of pneumatical rags than respectable domestic ghosts. However, as long as I got the ghosts, I did not care about the dress. Tenue de soir point de rigueur, I would have said, as they do outside the cheap casinos in Paris, or " Evening dress not required," if one must descend to the vernacular. Well, I sat persistently and patiently through I am afraid to say how many operations, and the operator described me as being surrounded by spirits - I always am according to Mediums, but my spirits must be eminently unsociable ones, for they seldom give me a word, and on this occasion refused to be "taken" as resolutely as the bashful gentleman in the Graphic who resisted the operations of the prison officials to [-349-] obtain a sun-picture of his interesting physiognomy. There was indeed a blotch on one of the negatives, which I was assured was a spirit. I could not see things in that light.
Foiled on this particular occasion my anxiety was dormant, but never died out. I still longed for a denizen of the other world to put in an appearance, and kept on being photographed over and over again until I might have been the vainest man alive, on the bare hope that the artist might be a Medium malgré lui or undeveloped. I had heard there were such beings, but they never came in my way. I was really serious in this wish, because I felt if it could be granted, the possibility of deception being prevented, the objectivity of the phenomena would be guaranteed. At this time I was heretical enough to believe that most ghosts were due to underdone pork or untimely Welsh rare-bits, and that the raps assigned to their agency were assignable to the active toes of the Medium which might be anywhere and up to anything with the opportunities of a dark séance.
A short time since, however, M. Buguet, a celebrated French Spirit Photographer came from Paris to London, and received sitters for the modest sum of 30s. each. This would have been much beyond my means; but I suppose my wish had transpired, and that gentleman sent me an invitation to sit gratis, which, I need not say, I thankfully accepted. I felt sure that M. Buguet did not know either my long [-350-] lost grandmother or lamented maiden aunt, so that any portraits I might get from him mould be presumably genuine. I sat; and over my manly form, when the negative came to be cleaned, was a female figure in the act of benediction. I have no notion how she got there - for I watched every stage in the operation, and selected my plate myself; but neither, on the other hand, does she bear the faintest resemblance to anybody I ever knew.
Still M. Buguet is not my modest photographer. Elated by success so far, I called on the local gentleman who advertised in the Medium; but the local gentleman was "engaged." I wrote to the local gentleman appointing an interview; but the local gentleman replied not. Yet still his advertisement remains ; and I see in every spiritualistic album dozens of "property" relations in the shape of quasi-spirits, and wonder why the local gentleman would not take me, so as to be immortalized in these pages.
Equally modest was the advertising Sibyl. I wrote to the Sibyl, and somebody replied, and "respectfully declined." But I was not to be done. There is more than one Sibyl in the world: I called on No. 2 without announcing my intention or sending in my name. This Sibyl at once admitted me, and I mounted to the first floor front of a respectable suburban lodging-house.
I waited anxiously for a long time, wondering whether Sibyl was partaking of the onions, whose [-351-] presence in that modest domicile was odoriferously evidenced to my nose, though it was then scarcely half-past one o'clock. Presently a portly middle-aged man, who might have been Sibyl's youthful papa, or rather aged husband, entered, wiping his mouth. He had clearly been partaking of the fragrant condiment.
Where was Sibyl?
"She would be with us directly," the gentleman said, varying the proceedings by picking his teeth in the interim.
She was with us in a minute, and never, I suppose, did picturesque anticipations more suddenly collapse and come to grief than mine. I had pictured Sibyl a bright ethereal being, and the realization of my ideal weighed twelve stone, if an ounce. She was a big, fleshy, large-boned woman of an utterly uncertain age, not without considerable good-nature in her extensive features; but the pervading idea that you had when you looked at Sibyl was that there was too much of her. I could not help thinking of the husband who said he did not like a big wife : he preferred two small ones; and then again I fell into wonderment as to whether the man who was still engaged with his dental apparatus was Sibyl's husband or papa. I told them I was anxious to test Sibyl's powers; and, with a few passes from his fat dumpy hands, the man soon put her to sleep. It looked to me like an after-dinner nap, but I was told it was magnetic. It might have been. By the way, I had unmistakable [-352-] evidence from my olfactory organ that Sibyl had been eating onions.
I had provided myself with two locks of hair, as I had heard that "psychometry" was among Sibyl's qualifications. I handed her the first, and she immediately proceeded to describe a series of tableaux which appeared to pass through her mind. She kept handling the lock of hair, and said, "The person to whom this belongs is ill - weak," which was true enough, but might, I thought, be a shot. I should mention, however, that it was quite impossible Sibyl could know me. She had not even heard my name. She then described a bedroom, with some person - she could not see what person - lying in bed, and a lady in a blue dress bending over her. This, again, I thought might flow out as a deduction from her premises of the hair belonging to an invalid. The blue dress was correct enough, but still so little special as to be a very possible coincidence. She then, however, startled me by saying, "I notice this, that on the table by the bedside, where the bottles of medicine are standing, milk has been spilt - a large quantity - and not wiped up." This was a trivial detail, not known to me at the time, but confirmed on subsequent inquiry.
She then passed on to describe a second tableau, where the same person in the blue dress was in a room all hung over with plates, along with a gentleman whom she described very accurately. He was the [-353-] occupant of the house where the patient lay, and having a hobby for old china, had turned his dining-room into a sort of crockery shop by hanging it all over with the delf.
This was curious enough, though not very convincing. It seemed as though the influence of this person who had given me the hair was stronger than that of the hair itself. With the second lock of hair we failed utterly. She said that also came from a sick person, but a person not sick with the same disease as the other. She was quite positive they came from different people, and asked me to feel the difference of texture. I am sorry, for Sibyl's sake, to say they both came from the same person, and were cut at the same time, though from different parts of the head, which made one look silkier than the other.
As a test of Sibyl's clairvoyance, this was not very satisfactory. She read the inscription on a card when her eyes were bandaged, pressing it to her forehead ; but then olden experiences in the way; of blindman's buff convince me that it is very difficult to say when a person is properly blinded.
Altogether, then, I never quite got over my previous disappointment at Sibyl's bulk. Had she been pretty and frizzle-headed like Miss Annie Eva Fay, or like Miss Showers or Miss Florence Cook, I might have been disposed to make more of her coincidences and to wink at her failures. We are so liable to be led [-354-] away by our feelings in these matters. Sibyl was large, had eaten onions, and would have been improved if she had brushed her hair, and so I am afraid I rather grudged the somewhat exorbitant fee which the fat-handed man - not Sibyl - took and pocketed in an interval of his dental pursuit, and I passed out from that suburban lodging, none of us, I fancy, very well satisfied with one another. I have an idea I unconsciously expressed my inner feelings of disappointment with Sibyl and something stronger in reference to her male companion.
SPIRITUALISTS AND CONJURERS.
"How it's done" is the question which, in the words of Dr. Lynn, we want to settle with reference to his own or kindred performances, and, still more, in the production of the phenomena known as spiritual. I have spent some years of my existence in a hitherto vain endeavour to solve the latter problem; and the farther I go, the more the mystery seems to deepen. Of late, the two opposed parties, the Spiritualists and the Conjurers, have definitely entered the arena, and declared war to the knife. Each claims to be Moses, and denounces the others as mere magicians. Mr. Maskelyne holds a dark séance, professing to expose the spiritualistic ones ; Dr. Lynn brandishes against them his strong right arm upon which is written in letters all of blood the name of one's deceased grandmother, while, in return, Dr. Sexton exposes the conjurers, and spoils one's enjoyment of a hitherto enjoyable evening, by showing "how it's done" - how the name of one's departed relative is forged and painted early in the afternoon, instead of "coming out" on the spot - and in spots - like measles or nettle-rash (as we feel [-356-] defunct relations ought to come) or walking in and out of the corded box at pleasure, and even going so far as to give the address of the clever mechanist down a by-street near Notting-hill Gate, who will make the mysterious packing case to order in return for a somewhat heavy "consideration."
I accepted Dr. Lynn's invitation to be present on his ' opening night ;" and wondered, in passing, why everybody should not make their cards of invitation such thorough works of art as his. Now I am going to do even-handed justice all the way round; and I must say that Dr. Lynn's experiment of fastening his attendant to a sort of penitential stool with copper wire, surrounded by scrutineers from the audience, and then making the man's coat come off, and a ring pass over his arm, behind a simple rug held in front of him, is quite as wonderful as anything I have ever witnessed at a séance. It has the great advantage of being done in the light, instead of, as in Mr. Fay's case, in darkness, and without a cabinet. In fact, I have no idea how it's done; though I have no doubt the first time I see Dr. Sexton he will point to something unsatisfactory in the bolts to which that doorkeeper is fastened, and give me the addresses of the ironmonger who will sell me some like them, or the tailor who will manufacture me a swallow tail coat with an imperceptible slit down the back. Then again, I have, as I said, seen young Mr. Sexton go in and out of the [-357-] corded box, and I know how that's done; but Dr. Lynn's man goes into three, one inside the other. Well, I can understand that if Dr. Sexton's theory be correct, it may perhaps be as easy to get into a "nest" of three as into one box; but how, in the name of nature or art does the nautical gentleman get out of the double sack in which he is tied? I cannot bring myself to print what Dr. Sexton's theory of the box is, because it appears to be such a wanton cruelty to "expose" things when people go to the Egyptian Hall on purpose to be mystified. I remember how the fact of having seen Dr. Sexton do the trick of reading the names in the hat spoilt my enjoyment of Dr. Lynn's experiment. He really appeared quite bungling when I knew all he was about. He did not, on this occasion, produce the letters on his arm; but I saw he could quite easily have done so, though the doing it would have been no sort of reproduction of Mr. Forster's manifestation, who showed you the name of some relative when you had looked in on him quite unexpectedly. I can quite understand how it is that the spiritualists, who hold these matters to be sacred as revelation itself - in fact, to be revelation itself, are shocked at seeing their convictions denounced as trickery and "exposed" on a public platform; but I confess I do not quite see how they can adopt the tu quoque principle, and "expose" Dr. Lynn and Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke as tricksters, because they do [-358-] not pretend to be anything else. It would have been fatal if the magicians had "found out" Moses, and they wisely refrained from trying; but it would have served no purpose for Moses to "find out" the magicians: and it strikes me Moses would have deemed it very infra dig. to make the attempt. The two things stand on quite different grounds; and I cannot help thinking that the spiritualists unwisely concede a point when they accept the challenge of the conjurers. I am quite aware that the theory of the spiritualists makes of many a conjurer a medium malgré lui, and says he ought to come out in his true colours. It was so Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke were originally introduced to a London public at the Crystal Palace under the auspices of an eminent spiritualist; but it really appears to me that such an assertion amounts to begging the question; for I doubt whether it would not "pay" quite as well to come out boldly in Mr. Williams's or Mr. Morse's line as in that of Dr. Lynn or Mr. Maskelyne.
In a lengthened confab which I once had with Mr. Maskelyne himself after one of his performances, he told me that by constant attendance at the séances of the Davenports he found out how that was all done; and, being a working watchmaker, was able soon to get the necessary apparatus constructed. I must again be just, and state that while the cabinet séance of Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke seems to me [-359-] the exact counterpart of the Davenports', their dark séance fails to reproduce that of the spiritualists as the performances of Professor Pepper himself. True, this latter gentleman does all his exposes on a platform which is sacred against all intrusion, and Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke assume to allow as much examination as the spiritualists. But I myself, who have seen Mr. Home float around Mr. S. C. Hall's drawing-room, and handled him above and below in transitu, quite fail to discern any reproduction of that phenomenon in the heavy, lumbering levitation of the lady by means of the scissors-like apparatus behind her, which we are only privileged to behold from the stalls. The dancing walking-stick is as palpably made terpsichorean by a string as the chairs I have seen cross Mr. Hall's drawing-room in full light were not drawn by strings, for I was able to look closely at them; and I do not know how that was done.
Fresh from Dr. Lynn's really marvellous performances of recent times, and with Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke's equally clever tricks in my mind's eye, though not quite so recently, I still am bold to say I believe there are still six of one to half-a-dozen of the other. If the conjurers reproduce the spiritual phenomena in some instances, the spiritualists distance the conjurers in others. I speak of phenomena only. The magicians produced many of the same phenomena as Moses; but, even so, if [-360-] we are orthodox we must believe the source of such manifestations to have been utterly different.
But I am, as I said, wise in my generation, and stick to phenomena. I venture to think the conjurers unwise in irritating the spiritualists, who are a growing body, by placarding their entertainment as exposés, even though such announcements may "draw" the non-spiritual public. I suppose, however, they understand the science of advertising better than I do; but I feel sure the spiritualists are unwise to follow their example, because they have got nothing to expose. Dr. Lynn or Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke are as much pleased as conscientious mediums would be shocked at being proved clever tricksters. The only folks who are injured by being told "how it's done," are the British Public, who pay their five shillings to be mystified at the Egyptian Hall, just as the spiritualists do in Lamb's Conduit Street. . If it is to come to a race for the championship and seriously it would seem that, having begun, the two parties are bound to continue the strife - one can scarcely imagine anything more attractive than such a combined display of talent. Dr. Lynn gets lots of people to come and see "How it's done" - the gentleman with the mandolin is well worth a visit, and I cannot guess how he does it - while Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke must really be making a good thing of it. Mr. Williams's séances are decidedly attractive (and how he does it has puzzled [-361-] me for years, as I said), nor does the Progressive Institute seem to decrease in interest; but let us only picture the fascination of a long evening where Pepper's Ghost should be pitted against John King, Mrs. Guppy and Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke's lady float in competition round the room or even in from the suburbs, while the Davenports and Dr. Lynn's man should wriggle out of or into iron rings and their own dress coats! Until some such contest takes place, the public mind will probably gravitate towards the conjurers rather than the spiritualists, and that through the actually suicidal policy of the latter; because while the spiritualists of necessity can show no visible source of their manifestations, one of their own rank devotes himself to aiding the conjurers by showing in reference to their tricks, "How it's done." It would have been wiser, surely, to stand upon dignity, and in a truly conservative spirit (is it too late even now to reassume it?), say, "These men are mediums, but it does not suit their pockets to confess it."
Well, they are signs of the times. London loves to be mystified, and would only have one instead of manifold methods to be so if the spiritualists and conjurers were to strike hands, and reduce us all to the dead level of pure faith or relentless reason and cold common sense!
PROS AND CONS OF SPIRITUALISM.
IT has been repeatedly urged upon me on previous occasions, and also during the progress of these sheets through the press, that I should make a clean breast of my own belief or disbelief in spiritualism; that besides being descriptive, I should go one step beyond a mere catalogue of phenomena, and, to some extent at least, theorize on this mysterious and generally proscribed subject.
Let me say at the outset that against the proscription of this, or indeed any topic which does not offend against morals, I would at the very outset protest as the height of unwisdom. Thus to taboo a subject is at once to lend it a factitious interest, and more than half to endorse its truth : and I believe modern spiritualism has been very generally treated in this way. Whether truth has gained by such indiscriminate condemnation and prejudgment is, I think, greatly open to question.
For myself, I have, from the first, steadily refused to look upon spiritualism in this bugbear fashion. The thing was either true or false - or, more probably still, partly true and partly false : and I must bring [-363-] to bear on the discovery of its truth or falsehood, just the same critical faculties that I should employ on any other problem of common life. That, I fancy, is no transcendental view of the matter; but just the plain common sense way of going to work. It was, at all events, right or wrong, the method I adopted to get at such results as I proceed to make public. I declined to be scared from the study either by Bogey or my esteemed friend Mrs. Grundy, but went at it just in the calm Baconian inductive method in which I should have commenced any other study or pursuit.
What I want to do is to tabulate these results in the same order as that in which they occurred to me ; and here I am met by a preliminary difficulty, not incidental to this subject only, but common to any narrative where we have to take a retrospective glance over a number of years. We are apt to view the subject from our present standpoint ; and I shall try to avoid this by quoting, whenever I can, what I published, or committed to writing in the course of my investigations. I shall not cull from others, because I want to make this purely a personal narrative.
Let me add, too, I do not in the least expect persons to believe what I say. Some, I think, will regard me as a harmless (if a harmless) lunatic, on account of certain statements I may have to make. Others will consider the whole thing as decidedly unorthodox and " wrong." For each of these issues I am prepared. I would not have believed any one else if [-364-] they had, prior to my experience, told me what I am going to tell them here; and therefore I do not expect them to believe me. All I hope to do is to interest persons sufficiently in the subject to induce them to look into the matter on their own account ; for verily I believe, as a distinguished spiritualist once said to me, that this thing is either an important truth or else one of the biggest swindles ever palmed off upon humanity.
One word more, and I proceed to my narrative. Of the three aspects under which it is possible to view spiritualism, the scientific, the theological, and the social, I shall not touch at all on the first since I am not a scientific man ; shall only glance at the second, because this is not the place for a theological discussion. I shall confine myself to the third, therefore, which I call the social aspect ; looking at the subject as a question of the day, the truth about which we are as much interested in solving as any other political or social question, but the investigation of which need not make us get excited and angry and call one another bad names. I venture to hope that by these means I may manage to compile a not unedifying or uninteresting narrative, though our subject be withal somewhat a ponderous one.
In order then to cover the preliminary part of my narrative, and to let my readers somewhat into the state of my own mind, when I had looked at the subject for several years, I will quote some extracts [-365-] from a paper I read before a society of spiritualists at the Beethoven Rooms a few years ago under the title "Am I a Spiritualist ?" I may mention that the assembly was divided, and never decided whether I was or not, and what is more, I do not think they are quite decided to the present day. I am a patient investigator still; but I really do not feel it necessary to issue perpetual bulletins as to the state of my convictions.
Taking as my thesis, then, the question, Am I a Spiritualist? it will certainly appear, at first sight, I said, that the person best qualified to answer this question is precisely the person who puts it; but a little consideration will, I think, show that the term "Spiritualist" is one of such wide and somewhat elastic meaning - in fact, that the word varies so widely according to the persons who use it - that the question may really be asked of one's self without involving an inconsistency.
When persons ask me, as they often do, with a look of unmitigated horror, " Is it possible that you, a clergyman, are a spiritualist ?" I am often inclined to answer, "Yes, madam,"- (for it is generally a lady who puts the question in that particular shape) -" I am a spiritualist, and precisely because I am a clergyman. I have had to express more than once my unfeigned assent and consent to the Common Prayer Book, and the Thirty Nine Articles; and that involves belief in the inspiration of all the Bible (except the Apocrypha), and the whole of that (not excepting the [-366-] Apocrypha) is spiritual, or spiritualistic (if you prefer the term) from beginning to end ; and therefore it is not in spite of my being a clergyman, but because I am a clergyman that I am such a confirmed spiritualist."
I could answer thus, only I do not, simply because to do so would be dishonest. I know my questioner is using the word in an utterly different sense from what I have thought proper to suppose. Besides such an answer would only lead to argumentation, and the very form of the question shows me the person who puts it has made up her mind on this, as probably on most other subjects ; and when a feminine mind is once made up (others than ladies have feminine minds on these subjects) it is very little use trying to alter it. I never do. I administer some orthodox verbal sedative, and change the subject. But even accepting the term in the way I know it is meant to be used - say, for instance, as it comes from the mouth of some conservative old gentleman, or supposed scientific authority - one's medical man to wit - "Do you believe in spiritualism ?" meaning "Are you such an ass as to believe in table-turning, and rapping, and all that kind of nonsense?" - even so, the question would admit of being answered by another question ; though I rarely enter so far on the matter with those whose minds are evidently quite comfortably made up on the matter. It is such a pity to interfere with cherished opinions. I have found out that there are Athanasian creeds in science as well as in theology ; [-367-] and really, whilst they form recognised formulae in the one or the other, it is positively lost labour to go running one's head against them. The question I want to ask - not the gentle apothecaries, but my readers - is, What do you mean by believing in spiritualism? Many of the phenomena of spiritualism I cannot but believe, if I am to take my five senses as my guides in this as in other matters, and quite setting aside any credence I may give to respectable testimony. When, however, I pass from facts to theories, and am asked to account for those facts, then I hesitate. There are some here, I know, who will say that the spiritualist like the lady who hesitates is lost - who think me as heterodox for doing so, as the inflexible old ladies and the omniscient apothecaries did on account of my even deigning to look into the evidence of such phenomena. I feel really that I have set myself up like an animated ninepin to be knocked down by the first thorough-going spiritualist who cares to bowl at me. But whatever else they think of me - sceptical though they deem me on subjects where perhaps you are, many of you, a little prone to dogmatize - I claim the character at least of an honest sceptic. I do not altogether disavow the title, but I understand it to mean "inquirer." I confess myself, after long years of perfectly unbiased inquiry, still an investigator - a sceptic. It is the fashion to abuse St. Thomas because he sought sensible proofs on a subject which [-368-] it was certainly most important to have satisfactorily cleared up. I never could read the words addressed to him at all in the light of a rebuke- "Because thou hast seen thou hast believed." The Church of England treats the doubt of St. Thomas as permitted by God "for the more confirmation of the faith ;" and I feel sure that professed spiritualists will not be so inconsistent as to censure any man for examining long and carefully matters which they believe to admit of demonstration. I heard the most eloquent of their advocates say, when comparing spiritual with credal conviction, " Our motto no longer is ' I believe,' but ' I know."' Belief may be instantaneous, but knowledge will be gradual; and so it is that, standing at a certain fixed point in very many years' study of spiritualism, I pause, and - so to say, empanelling a jury - ask the question it seems I ought to answer at others' asking - Am I a Spiritualist?
One word of apology further before entering on the details of the matter. It will be inevitable that the first personal pronoun shall recur frequently in the course of this paper, and that so the paper shall seem egotistical. The very question itself sounds so. I am not vain enough to suppose that it matters much to anybody here whether I am a spiritualist or not, except in so far as I may he in any sense a representative man. I believe I am. That is, I believe, nay, am sure, that a great many persons go as far as I do, and stop where I stop. There is a largish body [-369-] of investigators, I believe, dangling there, like Mahomet's coffin, between heaven and earth, and it would be a charity to land them somewhere. Of the clerical mind, I do not claim to be a representative, because the clerical mind, qua clerical, has made up itself that the phenomena in question are diabolical. Of course if I accepted this theory my question would be utterly irrelevant, and I should claim a place among the spiritualists at once. The diabolical people not only accept the phenomena, but admit their spiritual origin, and, more than this, identify the spirits. They are in point of fact the most thorough-going spiritualists of all.
In sketching their creed, I have mentioned the three stages through which most minds must go in this matter. Some few, indeed, take them by intuition, but most minds have to plod patiently along the path of inquiry, as I have done. The first stage is acceptance of the phenomena, the second the assignment of those phenomena to spirits as their source, the third is identification of these spirits.
1. On the first part of my subject I shall venture to speak with some boldness. I am not a philosopher, therefore I can afford to do so. I shall suppose my five senses to serve my purposes of observation, as they would be supposed to serve me if I were giving evidence in a court of justice. If I saw a table move, I shall say it did move, not "it appeared to move." I do this in my capacity of a commonplace instead of [-370-] a philosophical investigator; and I must say, if I were, as I supposed myself just now, in the witness-box, with a good browbeating counsel cross-examining me on this point, I would rather have to defend the position of the commonplace inquirer than the philosopher, pledged to defend the philosophy of the last fifty years, and bound hand and foot by his philosophic Athanasian Creed, and I don't know how many articles, more than thirty-nine, I fancy.
In the latter part of the year 1856, or beginning of 1857, then, I was residing in Paris, that lively capital being full of Mr. Home's doings at the Tuileries. At that time I knew nothing, even of table-turning. I listened to the stories of' Mr. Home and the Emperor as mere canards. I never stopped to question whether the matter were true, because I in my omniscience knew it to be impossible. It is this phase of my experience that makes me so unwilling to argue with the omniscient people now; it is such a waste of time. At this period my brother came to visit me, and he had either been present himself or knew persons who had been present at certain dances at Mr. Rymer's. He seemed staggered, if not convinced, by what he had heard or seen, and this staggered me too, for he was not exactly a gullible person and certainly by no means "spiritual." I was staggered, I own, but then I was omniscient, and so I did what is always safest, laughed at the matter. He suggested that we should try experiments instead of [-371-] laughing, and, not being a philosopher, I consented. We sat at the little round table in our tiny salon, which soon began to turn, then answered questions, and finally told us that one of the three, viz., my wife, was a medium, and consequently we could receive communications. I went to a side table and wrote a question as to the source of the manifestations, keeping it concealed from those at the table, and not rejoining them myself. The answer spelt out by them was-"We, the spirits of the departed, are permitted thus to appear to men." Again I wrote " What object is served by your doing so?" The answer was-" It may make men believe in God." I have said I am not a philosopher, therefore I do not mind confessing that I collapsed. I struck my flag at once as to the impossibility of the matter. At the same time I did not - as I know many ardent spiritualists will think I ought - at once swallow the whole thing, theory and all. I should not have believed if a man had told me this ; was it to be expected that I should believe a table? Honesty is my best policy; and I had better, therefore, say I was never so utterly knocked over by anything that occurred to me in my life before or since. My visage of utter, blank astonishment is a joke against me to this hour. We pursued the inquiry almost nightly during the remainder of my stay in Paris - up to late in the summer of 1857 that is - and also on our return to England ; but, strangely as it seems to me now, [-372-] considering how we began, we did it more as a pastime than anything else. The only time we were serious was when my wife and I sat alone, as we often did. Of course when I came to inquire at all into the matter I was met by Faraday's theory of involuntary muscular action, and also with the doctrine of unconscious cerebration - I was quite ready to accept either. My own position, as far as I can recall it, then was that the spiritual agency was "not proven." My wife had great reluctance against admitting the spiritual theory. I was simply passive; but two circumstances seemed to me to militate against the theories I have mentioned: (1.) The table we used for communicating was a little gimcrack French affair, the top of which spun round on the slightest provocation, and no force whatever, not even a philosopher's, applied to the surface would do more than spin the top round; but when the table turned, it turned bodily, legs and all. (2.) As to that ponderously difficult theory of unconscious cerebration communicated by involuntary muscular action, whenever we asked any questions as to the future, we were instantly checked, and told it was better that the future should not be revealed to us. I was anxious about a matter in connexion with an election to an appointment in England, and we asked some questions as to what form the proceedings would take. The reply was that certain candidates would be selected from the main body, and the election made from these. [-373-] I thought I had caught the table in an inconsistency, and said- "There now you have told us something about the future." It immediately replied- "No, I have not; the matter is already settled in the minds of the examiners." Whence came that answer? Certainly not from our minds, for it took us both by surprise. I could multiply a hundredfold instances of this kind, but, of course, to educated spiritualists these are mere A B C matters; whilst non-spiritualists would only accept them on the evidence of their own senses. I do not mean to say they actually question the facts to the extent of doubting one's veracity, or else nearly all testimony must go for nothing; but there is in these matters always room for doubting whether the narrator has not been deceived; and, moreover, even if accepted at secondhand, I doubt whether facts so accepted ever become, as it were, assimilated, so as to have any practical effect.
My facts at all events came at first-hand. I suppose a man need not be considered credulous for believing in his own wife, and nearly all these phenomena were produced by my wife's mediumship. It was not until late in the year 1865 or early in 1866, that I ever sat with a professional medium. My wife, moreover, from first to last, has steadily disbelieved the spirit theory, so that she has not laid herself open to suspicion of being prejudiced in favour of the subject. She has been emphatically an in-[-374-]voluntary, nay, even unwilling agent in these matters.
During these eight or nine years the communications were generally given by automatic writing, though sometimes still by tilting of the table. I am very much tempted to quote two, which linger in my recollection, principally, I believe, because they were so destructive of the cerebration theory, besides being curious in themselves. I kept no records until a later date. At present all rests on tradition. Each of these cases occurred in presence of myself, my wife, and a pupil. In the former, he was a young Englishman, who had lived a great deal abroad, whose mother was a Catholic and father a Protestant. He had been brought up in the latter faith; and when I desired him to ask a mental question, he asked, in French, that being the language most familiar to him-" Is the Catholic or the Protestant religion the true one ?" Mark you, he never articulated this, or gave the least hint that he was asking in French. He did it in fact, spontaneously. My wife immediately wrote " Ta mere est Catholique "- so far, in French, with difficulty, and then breaking off into English, " Respect her faith."
In the second instance, my pupil was a French youth, a Catholic, who was living in my house, but used to go to his priest frequently to be prepared for his first communion. One day when we were writing, this youth asked who the communicating spirit was, [-375-] and received in reply the name of Louis D----. The name was totally unknown to us ; but to our surprise when the youth came back from his visit to the priest that day he informed us that his reverend instructor had dwelt strongly on the virtues of Louis D-----. Seeing the boy look amazed as the name which had just been given at our séance was pronounced, the priest inquired the reason; and, on being informed, of course directed his catechumen never to join in such diablerie again.
The impression, then, left on my mind by these years of desultory dabbling with - rather than study of - the subject, was decidedly that the phenomena of spiritualism were genuine. Looking at the matter from my present standpoint and frame of mind, it seems to me incredible that I should have thought so little of the source of the phenomena. It was, as I said, that I was then dabbling with, not studying, the subject.
But even without advancing beyond this rudimentary stage, I saw a very serious result produced. I saw men who literally believed in nothing, and who entered on this pursuit in a spirit of levity, suddenly staggered with what appeared to afford even possibility of demonstration of another world, and the continued existence of the spirit after bodily death. I believe a great many persons who have never felt doubt themselves are unaware of the extent to which doubt prevails amongst young men especially; and I [-376-] have seen many instances of this doubt being - if not removed - shaken to its very foundation by their witnessing the phenomena of spiritualism. "Yes, but did it make good consistent Christians of them?" asks one of my excellent simple-minded objectors. Alas ! my experience does not tell me that good consistent Christians are so readily made. Does our faith - I might have asked - make us the good consistent Christians it ought to do, and would do perhaps, if we gave it fair play ?
So, then, my study of spiritualism had been purely phenomenal. It was a very sad and serious event which drove me to look deeper. Some people will, I daresay, think it strange that I allude to this cause here. The fact that I do so shows, at all events, that I have looked seriously at spiritualism since. It was none other than the loss, under painful circumstances, of one of my children. Now I had always determined that, in the event of my losing one near and dear to me, I would put spiritualism to the test, by trying to communicate with that one. This will, I think, show that, even then, if I did not accept the spiritualistic theory, I did not by any means consider the position untenable. The very day after my boy's death, I got his mother to sit, and found she was writing a little loving message purporting to come from him. This, a sceptic would say, was natural enough under the circumstances. I said no word, but sat apart, and kept writing "Who is it that [-377-] communicates ? write your name." Suddenly the sentence was broken off, and the child's name written, though I had not expressed my wish aloud. This was strange; but what followed was stranger still. Of course, so far all might have been fairly attributed to cerebration - if such a process exists. It was natural enough, it might be urged, that the mother, previously schooled in the belief of the probability of communication, should write in her lost child's name. For years the same thing never occurred again, though we sat night after night for the purpose of renewing such communications. I can certainly say of myself that, at this time, I was a spiritualist as thorough and devout a one as any existing; and the fact that I was so, when carried away by my feelings, makes me the more cautious to test and try myself as to whether my feelings may not sometimes sway my judgment even now; whether the wish be not often father of the thought, at all events in the identification of spiritual communications, and so, possibly, of the spiritual nature of such communications altogether.
However, from this time - the autumn of 1865 - my spiritual studies underwent an entire change - they were studies - serious studies. I now kept a careful journal of all communications, which journal I continued for three years, so that I can trace all my fluctuations of opinion - for I did fluctuate - during that period. Now, too, it was necessary for me to [-378-] consult those who had already gone deeply into the subject ; and the record of my experiences would be both imperfect and ungracious if I did not here acknowledge the prompt kindness of the two gentlemen to whom I applied - Mr. Benjamin Coleman and Mr. Samuel Carter Hall. I was comparatively a stranger to each of them, but they replied to my inquiries with the most ready courtesy, and I am happy to date my present friendship with each of them from this time. At Mr. Hall's I met Mr. Home, and on the second occasion of my doing so, not only saw him float, but handled him above and below during the whole of the time he floated round Mr. Hall's drawing-room. I am unphilosophical enough to say that I entirely credit the evidence of my senses on that occasion, and am as certain that Mr. Home was in space for five minutes as I am of my own existence. The ordinary solution of cranes and other cumbrous machinery in Mr. Hall's drawing-room I cannot credit, for I think we should have seen them, and I am sure I should have felt ropes round Mr. Home's body. Chairs went from one end of the room to the other in full light; and nobody had previously tumbled over strings and wires, so that I don't think there could have been any there.
I fancy, as far as any order is traceable in the somewhat erratic course of spiritualistic experiences, that most people arrive at spiritualism via mesmerism. It so happened that this order was exactly inverted [-379-] in my case. I t was not until 1866 that I found I possessed the power of magnetism, and moreover, had in my house a subject whom Alphonse Didier (with whom I afterwards put myself in communication) declared to be "one in a thousand." Some of the details of this lady's case are very curious, but this is scarcely the place to dilate upon them further than as they affected my spiritualistic studies. She passed with extraordinary ease into the condition of lucidity, when she was conscious only of basking in light, anxious to be magnetized more deeply so as to get more thoroughly into the light, and, moreover, aware only of the existence of those who had passed away from earth. She knew they were with her : said I must know it, as I was there too, and that it was I only who would not "let her " see them. The fact that "our life is twofold " was to me most marvellously brought out by my magnetic treatment of this lady; and, moreover, the power of influencing action could not fail to be suggestive of the truth of one of the cardinal doctrines of spiritualism - that we are thus influenced by disembodied spirits, as I, an embodied spirit, could influence another spirit in the body. Some of the likes and dislikes which I, so to say, produced then in 1866 have remained to the present hour. For instance, one particular article of food (I will not mention what, or it would be fatal to my reader's gravity), for which she previously had a penchant, I rendered so distasteful to her that the [-380-] very smell of it now makes her uncomfortable. I must plead guilty to having experimented somewhat in this way ; but what a wonderful light it sheds upon the great problem of the motives of human action! By the simple exercise of my will I could make my patient perform actions the most abhorrent to her. For instance - the ladies will appreciate this power - at a time when crinolines were extensive, I made that poor creature draggle about in a costume conspicuous by the absence of crinoline, and making her look like some of the ladies out of a Noah's ark.
During this period my wife and I constantly sat alone, and she wrote. It is no disrespect to her to say that writing is not her forte, but the communications she made in this way were exceedingly voluminous, and couched in a particularly happy style, though on subjects far above the range of ordinary compositions. We never obtained a single communication purporting to come from our child, but the position claimed by the communicating intelligence was that of his spirit-guardian.
Having now probably said enough in these confessions to convince every non-spiritualist that I am insane, because I believed the evidence of my senses, and even vestured to look into matters so unorthodox and unscientific as mesmerism and spiritualism, I go on to "make a clean breast," and set myself wrong with the other moiety of my readers. I must candidly confess that the experiences of this year [-381-] (1866) did not confirm my sudden conviction of the spiritual agency in these phenomena. I drifted back, in fact, to my previous position, accepting the phenomena, but holding the cause an open question. The preface to the book, "From Matter to Spirit," exactly expressed - shall I say expresses? - my state of mind. There is one passage in that preface which appears to me to clinch the difficulty - "I am perfectly convinced that I have both seen and heard, in a manner which should make unbelief impossible, things called spiritual, which cannot be taken by a reasonable being to be capable of explanation by imposture, coincidence, or mistake. So far I feel the ground firm under me. But when it comes to what is the cause of these phenomena I find I cannot adopt any explanation which has yet been suggested. If I were bound to choose among things which I can conceive, I should say that, there is some sort of action - some sort of combination of will, intellect, and physical power, which is not that of any of the human beings present. But thinking it very likely that the universe may contain a few agencies, say half a million, about which no man knows anything, I cannot but suspect that a small proportion of these agencies, say five thousand, may be severally competent to the production of all the phenomena, or may be quite up to the task among them. The physical explanations which I have seen are easy, but miserably insufficient: the spiritual hypothesis is sufficient but ponderously diffi-[-382-]cult." This statement is natural enough from the scientific side of the question. Perhaps the theological inquirer, taking the fact into consideration that Scripture certainly concedes the spiritual origin of kindred phenomena, would rather reverse the statement, and say (what I individually feel) that the psychological explanation is the ponderously difficult -the pneumatological, the comparatively easy one.
It is now no secret that the author of this excellent treatise, is Professor De Morgan ; and I can only say that if I am accused of heterodoxy, either from the spiritualist or anti-spiritualist side of the discussion, I am not ashamed to be a heretic in such company. Let me put the matter in the present tense, indicative mood - that is the state of my opinion on the cause of the phenomena. Admitting the facts, I hold the spiritual theory to be "not proven," but still to be a hypothesis deserving our most serious consideration, not only as being the only one that will cover all the facts, but as the one I believe invariably given in explanation by the intelligence that produces the phenomena, even when, as in our case, all those present are sceptical of or opposed to such a theory.
3. It may perhaps sound illogical if, after stating that I hold the spiritual origin of these phenomena unproven, I go on to speak of the identification of the communicating spirit ; but I hope I have made it clear that, even if I do not consider the spiritualistic [-383-] explanation demonstrated, it is still a hypothesis which has much in its favour.
I have already mentioned the subject of identification in the case of the first communication purporting to come from our little child, and how no such communications were received for a period of some years after. In December, 1866, I went to the Marshalls', entering as an entire stranger, and sitting down at the table. I saw some strong physical manifestations - a large table being poised in space, in full light, for some seconds. It was signified there was a spirit present who wished to communicate, and the message given by raps to me was-" Will you try to think of us more than you have done?" I asked the name, and my child's was correctly given, though I had not been announced, and I have no reason to believe my name was known. The place where he passed away from earth was also correctly specified. I then asked for my father, and his name was correctly given, and a message added, which I cannot say was equally suggestive of individuality. It was- "Bright inspiration will dawn upon your soul, and do not hide your light under a bushel."
Another case in which I tested individuality strongly, with utter absence of success, was also brought before me somewhat earlier in this year. I was sent for by a lady who had been a member of my congregation, and who had taken great interest in these questions. She was suddenly smitten down with [-384-] mortal disease, and I remained with her almost to the last - indeed, I believe her last words were addressed to me, and referred to this very subject of identification - she consulting me as to the great problem she was then on the very point of solving! As soon as she had gone from us, I went home, and tried to communicate with her. I was informed that her spirit was present, and yet every detail as to names, &c., was utterly wrong.
In the spring of the following year I went again to the Marshalls', in company with one or two other persons, my own object being to see if I could obtain communication from the spirit of a highly-gifted lady who had recently died - and also, I may mention, had been the medium of my previous slight acquaintance with Mr. Coleman. She was very much interested in these matters, and, when in this world, her great forte had been writing. She published a volume of poems, which won the special commendation of the late Charles Dickens, and her letters were most characteristic ones. I mentioned that I wished to communicate with the spirit I was thinking of, and said I should be quite satisfied if the initials were correctly given. Not so - the whole three names were immediately given in full. I do not feel at liberty to mention the names; but the surname was one that nine out of ten people always spelt wrongly (just as they do my name), but on this occasion it was correctly spelt. I asked for a cha-[-385-]racteristic message, and received the words, "I am saved, and will now save others;" - about as unlike my friend's ordinary style as possible. It may be said her nature had undergone revolution, but that was not the question. The test was that something should be given, identifying the spirit, by the style of its former writing while embodied on earth.
With one more case, bearing on this subject of identity, and bringing the matter up to the present date, I feel I may advantageously close this portion of my experiences - though as I do so, I am thoroughly dissatisfied with myself to find how much I have left unsaid. It is so difficult to put these things on paper, or in any way to convey them to another; - most difficult of all for one unblessed with leisure, and combining in his single self the pursuits of some three laborious callings.
Last year, whilst sitting at Mrs. B-'s, I was touched by a hand which seemed to me that of a small girl, and which attracted my attention by the way it lingered in mine - this would amuse Professor Pepper - and the pertinacity with which it took off my ring. However, I never took any steps to identify the owner of the hand.
Some few months ago, my wife and I mere sitting, and a communication came ostensibly from our child. It was quite unexpected; and I said, "I thought you could not communicate." "I could not before," was the reply. "But you have not [-386-] tried me for two years." This we found was true; but we actually had to look into dates to ascertain it. He added, that he always was present at séances where I went, and especially at Mrs. B-'s . It will, I daresay, sound strange to non-spiritualists. but the initiated can understand the conversational tone we adopt. I said, "But, Johnny, that was not your hand that touched me at Mrs. B-'s. It was too large." The answer was, " No ! it was Charlie's turn." I said, "What do you mean by Charlie's turn?" The word was rewritten with almost petulant haste and remarkable plainness, "Charlie's twin." Charlie is my eldest boy, and his twin-brother was still-born. He would be between thirteen and fourteen years of age, and that was precisely the sized hand I felt. This was curious; as the event had occurred a year before, and such an explanation had never even crossed my mind. I was promised that, if I would go to Mrs. B-'s again, each of the children would come and place a hand in mine. I went to the ordinary séance some time before Christmas, and was then told that the test I wished - which I had not then specified - should be given to me at a private séance. We had the private séance, but nothing occurred.
Such is my case. To one section of my readers I appear credulous, to another hard of belief. I believe that I represent the candid inquirer. As for being scared off from the inquiry by those who call it [-387-] unorthodox, or cry out "fire and brimstone," I should as little think of heeding them as the omniscient apothecaries who smile at my believing in mesmerism. If a man's opinions are worth anything - if he has fought his way to those opinions at the bayonet's point - he will not be scared off from them by the whole bench of Bishops on the one side, or the College of Surgeons on the other. Not that I for one moment plead guilty to heterodoxy, either scientific or theological. I am not, as I have said several times, a philosopher, but I believe it is scientific to hold as established what you can prove by experiment. I don't think my creed contains a jot or tittle beyond this. And as for theological orthodoxy, I simply take my stand upon the Canons of the Church of England. If all this spiritual business is delusion, how comes it that No. 72 of the Constitutions and Canons Ecclesiastical says : "Neither shall any minister, not licensed, attempt, upon any pretence whatever, either of possession or obsession, by fasting or prayer, to cast out any devil or devils?"
The question, however, is not of this kind of orthodoxy. It rather refers to the creed of spiritualism. The question, in fact, to which I and the many who think with me pause for a reply, is :-Allowing, as we do, some of the phenomena - but considering the pneumatological explanation hypothetical only - and therefore any identification of communicating intelligence [-388-] of that first person singular, and glad to take refuge in a community), are we, or are we not, spiritualists?
So far was I able to commit myself in my address to the spiritualists of Harley Street. I was, I confess, greatly pleased when, in 1869, the Dialectical Society took up this matter, because I felt they were just the people to look into it dispassionately. They were bound to no set of opinions, but regarded every thing as an open question, accepting nothing save as the conclusion of a logical argument. I joined the Society - straining my clerical conscience somewhat to do so - and eventually formed one of the committee appointed by the Society to inquire into the matter, and having a sub-committee sitting at my own house. This, however, broke up suddenly, for I found even philosophers were not calm in their examination of unpalatable facts. One gentleman who approached the subject with his mind fully made up, accused the lady medium of playing tricks, and me of acting showman on the occasion. As there was no method of shunting this person, I was obliged to break up my sub-committee. To mention spiritualism to these omniscient gentlemen is like shaking a red rag at a bull. As a case in point (though, of course, I do not credit these gentlemen with the assumption of omniscience), I may quote the replies of Professor Huxley and Mr. G. H. Lewes to the Society's invitation to sit on their committee :-
[-389-] "Sir,-I regret that I am unable to accept the invitation of the Council of the Dialectical Society to co-operate with a committee for the investigation of 'spiritualism;' and for two reasons. In the first place, I have no time for such an inquiry, which would involve much trouble and (unless it were unlike all inquiries of that kind I have known) much annoyance. In the second place, I take no interest in the subject. The only case of ' spiritualism ' I have had the opportunity of examining into for myself; was as gross an imposture as ever came under my notice. But supposing the phenomena to be genuine - they do not interest me. If anybody would endow me with the faculty of listening to the chatter of old women and curates in the nearest cathedral town, I should decline the privilege, having better things to do.
" And if the folk in the spiritual world do not talk more wisely and sensibly than their friends report them to do, I put them in the same category.
" The only good that I can see in a demonstration of the truth of 'spiritualism' is to furnish an additional argument against suicide. Better live a crossing-sweeper than die and be made to talk twaddle by a ' medium' hired at a guinea a séance.
" I am, Sir, &c.,
" T. H. HUXLEY.
" 29th January, 1869."
Confessedly Professor Huxley only tried one experiment. I cannot help thinking if he had not [-390-] approached the subject with a certain amount of prejudice he would have been content to "Try again." The side-hit at curates of course I appreciate!
"Dear Sir,- I shall not be able to attend the investigation of ' spiritualism ;' and in reference to your question about suggestions would only say that the one hint needful is that all present should distinguish between facts and inferences from facts. When any man says that phenomena are produced by no known physical laws, he declares that he knows the laws by which they are produced.
"G. H. Lewes.
" Tuesday, 2nd February, 1869."
I am not, as I have said, a scientific man, nor do I advance the slightest pretensions to genius ; therefore I have no doubt it is some mental defect on my part which prevents my seeing the force of Mr. G. H. Lewes's concluding sentence. I have worked at it for years and am compelled to say I cannot understand it.
I sat, however, through the two years' examination which the Society gave to the subject ; and it is not anticipating the conclusion of this chapter to say I was fully able to concur in the report they subsequently issued, the gist of which is continued in the final paragraph :-
"In presenting their report, your committee taking into consideration the high character and great in-[-391-]telligence of many of the witnesses to the more extraordinary facts, the extent to which their testimony is supported by the reports of the sub-committees, and the absence of any proof of imposture or delusion as regards a large portion of the phenomena; and further, having regard to the exceptional character of the phenomena, the large number of persons in every grade of society and over the whole civilized world who are more or less influenced by a belief in their supernatural origin, and to the fact that no philosophical explanation of them has yet been arrived at, deem it incumbent upon them to state their conviction that the subject is worthy of more serious attention and careful investigation than it has hitherto received."
With those cautiously guarded words I venture to think that any one who even reds the body of evidence contained in the Dialectical Society's report will be able to coincide.
To return to my more personal narrative.
As far as I can trace any order in this somewhat erratic subject, I think I may venture to say that the manifestations of the last few years have assumed a more material form than before. It sounds a little Hibernian to say so, I know; but I still retain the expression. Supposing, for the moment, that the effects were produced by spirits, the control of the medium for the production of trance, spirit-voice, automatic writing, or even communications through raps and tilts of the table was much more intellectual [-392-] - less physical than those of which I now have to speak - namely, the production of the materialized Spirit Faces and Spirit Forms.
Two phases of manifestation, I may mention in passing, I have not seen - namely, the elongation of the body, and the fire test - both as far as I know peculiar to Mr. Home: nor again have I had personal experience of Mrs. Guppy's aerial transit, or Dr. Monk's nocturnal flight from Bristol to Swindon. Nothing of the kind has ever come at all within the sphere of my observation : therefore I forbear to speak about it. I shall never forget the delight with which I received a letter from a gentleman connected with the literature of spiritualism, informing me that materialized Spirit Faces had at last been produced in full light, and inviting me to come and see. I was wearied of dark séances, of fruit and flowers brought to order. John King's talk wearied me ; and Katie's whispers had become fatally familiar: so I went in eagerly for the new sensation, and communicated my results to the world in the two papers called Spirit Faces and Spirit Forms, the former published in Unorthodox London, the latter in Chapter 43 of the present volume. This class of manifestation has since become very common. I cannot say I ever considered it very satisfactory. I have never discovered any trickery - and I assure my readers I have kept my eyes and ears very wide open - but there are in such manifestations facilities for charlatanism which [-393-] it is not pleasant to contemplate. This, let me continually repeat, is a purely personal narrative, and I have never seen any Spirit Face or Form that I could in the faintest way recognise. Others, I know, claim to have done so; but I speak strictly of what has occurred to myself. The same has been the case with Spirit Photographs. I have sat, after selecting my own plate and watching every stage in the process; and certainly over my form there has been a shadowy female figure apparently in the act of benediction;* [* Alluded to above, p. 350.] but I cannot trace resemblance to any one I ever saw in the flesh. Perhaps I have been unfortunate in this respect.
Very similar to Miss Cook's mediumship was that of Miss Showers; a young lady whom I have met frequently at the house of a lady at the West-end of London, both the medium and her hostess being quite above suspicion. In this case, besides the face and full form we have singing in a clear baritone voice presumably by a spirit called Peter - who gives himself out as having been in earth-life, I believe, a not very estimable specimen of a market-gardener. I am exceedingly puzzled how to account for these things. I dare not suspect the medium ; but even granting the truth of the manifestations, they seem to me to he of a low class which one would only come into contact with under protest and for the sake of evidence.
Mr. Crookes used to explain, and Serjeant Cox still [-394-] explains these manifestations as being the products of a so-called Psychic Force - a term which I below define. Although I am as little inclined to hero-worship, and care as little for large names as any man living, yet it is quite impossible not to attach importance to the testimony of these gentlemen; one so eminent in the scientific world, and privileged to write himself F.R.S., the other trained to weigh evidence and decide between balanced probabilities. But it would seem that while Psychic Force might cover the ground of my earlier experiences, it singularly fails to account for the materializations, and obliges us to relegate them to the category of fraud, unless we accept them as being what they profess to be. This I believe Serjeant Cox ruthlessly does. He claims as we have seen to hare "caught " Miss Showers, and was not, I believe, convinced by Miss Cook. Mr. Crookes was : and, when we remember that Mr. Wallace, the eminent naturalist, and Mr. Cromwell Varley, the electrician, both accept the spiritual theory, it really looks as though the scientific mind was more open to receive - perhaps driven to receive - this which I frankly concede to be the only adequate cause for the effects, while the legal mind still remains hair-splitting upon conflicting evidence. Whereabouts the theological mind is I do not quite know - perhaps still dangling between the opposite poles of Faith and Reason, and dubiously debating with me "Am I a Spiritualist or not ?"
[-395-] In a recent pamphlet reprinted from the Quarterly Journal of Science, Mr. Crookes thus compendiously sums up the various theories which have been invented to account for spiritualistic phenomena, and, in so doing, incidentally defines his now discarded theory of Psychic Force which owns Mr. Serjeant Cox for its patron :-
First Theory.-The phenomena are all the results of tricks, clever mechanical arrangements, or legerdemain; the mediums are impostors, and the rest of the company fools.
It is obvious that this theory can only account for a very small proportion of the facts observed. I am willing to admit that some so-called mediums of whom the public have heard much are arrant impostors who have taken advantage of the public demand for spiritualistic excitement to fill their purses with easily earned guineas ; whilst others who have no pecuniary motive for imposture are tempted to cheat, it would seem, solely by a desire for notoriety.
Second Theory.-The persons at a séance are the victims of a sort of mania or delusion, and imagine phenomena to occur which have no real objective existence.
Third Theory.-The whole is the result of conscious or unconscious cerebral action.
These two theories are evidently incapable of embracing more than a small portion of the phenomena, and they are improbable explanations for even those. They may be dismissed very briefly.
[-396-] I now approach the "spiritual" theories. It must be remembered that the word "spirits" is used in a very vague sense by the generality of people.
Fourth Theory.-The result of the spirit of the medium, perhaps in association with the spirits of some or all of the people present.
Fifth Theory.-The actions of evil spirits or devils, personifying who or what they please, in order to undermine Christianity and ruin men's souls.
Sixth Theory.-The actions of a separate order of beings, living on this earth, but invisible and immaterial to us. Able, however, occasionally to manifest their presence ; known in almost all countries and ages as demons not necessarily bad, gnomes, fairies, kobolds, elves, goblins, Puck, &c.
Seventh Theory.-The actions of departed human beings - the spiritual theory par excellence.
Eighth Theory.-(The Psychic Force Theory).-This is a necessary adjunct to the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th theories, rather than a theory by itself.
According to this theory the "medium," or the circle of people associated together as a whole, is supposed to possess a force, power, influence, virtue, or gift, by means of which intelligent beings are enabled to produce the phenomena observed. What these intelligent beings are is a subject for other theories.
It is obvious that a "medium" possesses a something which is not possessed by an ordinary being. Give this something a name. Call it "x" if you like. Mr. [-397-] Serjeant Cox calls it Psychic Force. There has been so much misunderstanding on this subject that I think it best to give the following explanation in Mr. Serjeant Cox's own words :-
" The Theory of Psychic Force is in itself merely the recognition of the now almost undisputed fact that under certain conditions, as yet but imperfectly ascertained, and within a limited, but as yet undefined, distance from the bodies of certain persons having a special nerve organization, a Force operates by which, without muscular contact or connexion, action at a distance is caused, and visible motions and audible sounds are produced in solid substances. As the presence of such an organization is necessary to the phenomenon, it is reasonably concluded that the Force does, in some manner as yet unknown, proceed from that organization. As the organism is itself moved and directed within its structure by a Force which either is, or is controlled by, the Soul, Spirit, or Mind (call it what we may) which constitutes the individual being we term 'the Man,' it is an equally reasonable conclusion that the Force which causes the motions beyond the limits of the body is the same Force that produces motion within the limits of the body. And, inasmuch as the external force is seen to be often directed by Intelligence, it is an equally reasonable conclusion that the directing Intelligence of the external force is the same Intelligence that directs the Force internally. This is the force to which [-398-] the name of Psychic Force has been given by me as properly designating a force which I thus contend to be traced back to the Soul or Mind of the Man as its source. But I, and all who adopt this theory of Psychic Force, as being the agent through which the phenomena are produced, do not thereby intend to assert that this Psychic Force may not be sometimes seized and directed by some other Intelligence than the Mind of the Psychic. The most ardent spiritualists practically admit the existence of Psychic Force under the very inappropriate name of Magnetism (to which it has no affinity whatever), for they assert that the Spirits of the Dead can only do the acts attributed to them by using the Magnetism (that is, the Psychic Force) of the Medium. The difference between the advocates of Psychic Force and the spiritualists consists in this - that we contend that there is as yet insufficient proof of any other directing agent than the Intelligence of the Medium, and no proof whatever of the agency of Spirits of the Dead; while the spiritualists hold it as a faith, not demanding further proof, that Spirits of the Dead are the sole agents in the production of all the phenomena. Thus the controversy resolves itself into a pure question of fact, only to be determined by a laborious and long continued series of experiments and an extensive collection of psychological facts, which should be the first duty of the Psychological Society, the formation of which is now in progress."
[-399-] It has frequently struck me, especially in connexion with certain investigations that I have been making during the last few years, that Spiritualism is going through much the same phases as Positivism. It seemed at first impossible that the Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte could culminate in a highly ornate Religion of Humanity, with its full ritual, its ninefold sacramental system. It is even curious to notice that it was the death of Clotilde which brought about the change, by revealing to him the gap which Philosophy always does leave between the present and the future. So too Spiritualism is beginning to "organize" and exhibits some symptoms of formulating a Creed and Articles of Belief. The British National Association of Spiritualists, which has honoured me by placing my name on its Council, thus states its principles, under the mottoes :-
"He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him."-Proverbs xviii. 13.
" In Scripture we are perpetually reminded that the Laws of the Spiritual World are, in the highest sense, Laws of Nature."-Argyll.
"He who asserts that, outside of the domain of pure Mathematics, anything is impossible, lacks a knowledge of the first principles of Logic."-Arago.
DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES AND PURPOSES.
" Spiritualism implies the recognition of an inner nature in man. It deals with facts concerning that [-400-] inner nature, the existence of which has been the subject of speculation, dispute, and even of denial, amongst philosophers in all ages : and in particular, with certain manifestations of that inner nature which have been observed in persons of peculiar organizations, now called Mediums or Sensitives, and in ancient times Prophets, Priests, and Seers.
"Spiritualism claims to have established on a firm scientific basis the immortality of man, the permanence of his individuality, and the Open Communion, under suitable conditions, of the living with the so-called dead, and affords grounds for the belief in progressive spiritual states in new spheres of existence.
" Spiritualism furnishes the key to the better understanding of all religions, ancient and modern. It explains the philosophy of Inspiration, and supersedes the popular notion of the miraculous by the revelation of hitherto unrecognised laws.
"Spiritualism tends to abrogate exaggerated class distinctions; to reunite those who are now too often divided by seemingly conflicting material interests ; to encourage the co-operation of men and women in many new spheres; and to uphold the freedom and rights of the individual, while maintaining as paramount the sanctity of family life.
" Finally, the general influence of Spiritualism on the individual is to inspire him with self-respect, with a love of justice and truth, with a reverence for Divine [-401-] law, and with a sense of harmony between man, the universe, and God.
" The British National Association of Spiritualists is formed to unite Spiritualists of every variety of opinion, for their mutual aid and benefit; to promote the study of Pneumatology and Psychology ; to aid students and inquirers in their researches, by placing at their disposal the means of systematic investigation into the now recognised facts and phenomena, called Spiritual or Psychic; to make known the positive results arrived at by careful scientific research ; and to direct attention to the beneficial influence which those results are calculated to exercise upon social relationships and individual conduct. It is intended to include spiritualists of every class, whether members of Local and Provincial Societies or not, and all inquirers into psychological and kindred phenomena.
"The Association, whilst cordially sympathizing with the teachings of Jesus Christ, will hold itself entirely aloof from all dogmatism or finalities, whether religious or philosophical, and will content itself with the establishment and elucidation of well-attested facts, as the only basis on which any true religion or philosophy can be built up."
This last clause has, I believe, been modified to suit certain members of my profession who were a little staggered by its apparent patronizing of Christianity. For myself (but then, I am unorthodox) I care little for these written or printed symbols.[-402-] Having strained my conscience to join the Dialecticians, I allow my name, without compunction, to stand on the Council of the Association, - and shall be really glad if it does them any good. The fact is, I care little for formal creeds, but much for the fruit of those creeds. I stand by that good old principle - "By their fruits ye shall know them;" and that reminds me that to my shreds and patches of "experience" I am to append some pros and cons of this matter. They have cropped up incidentally as we have gone on: but I could with advantage collect them if my limits admitted of sermonizing.
As to the fruits of Spiritualism, I can only say that I have never witnessed any of these anti-Christianizing effects which some persons say arise from a belief in Spiritualism. They simply have not come within the sphere of my observation, nor do I see tendency towards them in the tenets of Spiritualism - rather the reverse.
Then again, to pass from practice to faith, Spiritualism professes to be the reverse of exclusive. In addressing the Conference of 1874, and defending my position as a clerical inquirer, I was able to say :- "On the broad question of theology I can conceive no single subject which a clergyman is more bound to examine than that which purports to be a new revelation, or, at all events, a large extension of the [-403-] old; and which, if its claims be substantiated, will quite modify our notions am to what we now call faith. It proposes, in fact, to supply in matters we have been accustomed to take on trust, something so like demonstration, that I feel not only at liberty, but actuzlly bound, whether I like it or not, to look into the thing."
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Whether your creed is right or wrong is not for me to tell you; but it is most important for me that I should assure myself. And while I recognise that my own duty clearly is to examine the principles you profess, I find this to be eminently their characteristic, that they readily assimilate with those of my own Church. I see nothing revolutionary in them. You have no propaganda. You do not call upon me, as far as I understand, to come out of the body I belong to and join yours, as so many other bodies do; but you ask me simply to take your doctrines into my own creed, and vitalize it by their means. That has always attracted me powerfully towards you. You are the broadest Churchmen I find anywhere."
I am not writing thus in any sense as the apologist of Spiritualism. I am not offering anything like an Apologia pro vita mea in making the inquiries I have done, am doing, and hope to do. I have elected to take, and I elect to maintain, a neutral position in [-404-] Pros and Cons that present themselves to my mind. If the Pros seem to outweigh the Cons - or vice versa - be it so. I cannot help it. I have scarcely decided for myself yet, and I am a veteran investigator. Others may be more speedy in arriving at a conclusion.
Among the more obvious " Cons " are the oft-quoted facts that some people have lost their heads and wasted a good deal of their time on Spiritualism. But people lose their heads by reading classics or mathematics, or overdoing any one subject however excellent - even falling in love : and the ingenuity displayed in wasting time is so manifold that this is an objection that can scarcely be urged specially against Spiritualism, though I own Dark Séances do cut terribly into time.
Then again one is apt to be taken in by mediums or even by spirits. Yes ; but this only imposes the ordinary obligation of keeping one's eyes open. I know spiritualists who believe in every medium qua medium, and others who accept as unwritten gospel the idiotic utterances of a departed buccaneer or defunct clown: but these people are so purely exceptional as simply to prove a rule. Do not accept as final in so-called spiritual what you would not accept in avowedly mundane matters. Keep your eyes open and your head cool, and you will not go far wrong. These are the simple rules that I have [-405-] elaborated during my protracted study of the subject.
"We do not believe, we know," was, as I said, the proud boast a spiritualist once made to me. And if the facts - any of the facts - of Spiritualism stand as facts, there is no doubt that it would form the strongest possible counterpoise to the materialism of our age. It presses the method of materialism into its service, and meets the doubter on his own ground of demonstration - a low ground, perhaps, but a tremendously decisive one, the very one perhaps on which the Battle of Faith and Reason will have to be fought out.
If - let us not forget that pregnant monosyllable - if the assumptions of Spiritualism be true, and that we can only ascertain by personal investigation, I believe the circumstance would be efficacious in bringing back much of the old meaning of the word pistis [in Greek script, ed.] which was something more than the slipshod Faith standing as its modern equivalent. It would make it really the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Even if the dangers of Spiritualism were much greater than they are - aye, as great as the diabolical people themselves make out - I should still think (in the cautious words of the Dialecticians) Spiritualism was worth looking into, if only on the bare chance, however remote, of lighting on some such Philosophy [-406-] as that so beautifully sketched by Mr. S. C. Hall in some of the concluding stanzas of his poem " Philosophy," with which I may fitly conclude-
And those we call " the dead" (who are not dead-
Death was their herald to Celestial Life)-
May soothe the aching heart and weary head
In pain, in toil, in sorrow, and in strife.
That is a part of every natural creed-
Instinctive teaching of another state:
When manacles of earth are loosed and freed-
Which Science vainly strives to dissipate.
In tortuous paths, with prompters blind, we trust
One Guide-to lead us forth and set ns free !
Give us, Lord God ! all merciful and just!
The FAITH that is but Confidence in Thee !